Hong Kong mother jailed for throwing highly acidic drain cleaner on young lover’s face, causing permanent eye damage

In handing down jail term of more than six years, judge says there has to be a serious deterrent sentence as throwing acid is easy to commit and result is frightening

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 11:01am

A mother of two who threw highly acidic drain cleaner on her young lover, leaving him unable to close his eyes, was jailed for six years and eight months on Wednesday.

The High Court heard the attack in May 2015 occurred after Cheung Chun-oi, 49, had broken up with Shek Ka-on, 26, and aborted their child because she felt he did not care.

“It is very sad to deal with this type of case, where emotions are involved,” Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping said.

“It’s very difficult to determine how much each party has suffered both emotionally and physically.”

She concluded, however, that there had to be a severe deterrent sentence as an acid attack was “so easy to commit and the result is so frightening for the victim”.

The “vicious and vengeful” nature of the crime was further highlighted when the judge found that Cheung had planned the attack, contrary to the defendant’s claim that she was simply smoking in the alley where Shek would pass by on his way to work.

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“There’s no doubt that the defendant was there in the alley waiting for the victim,” the judge ruled.

Toh concluded that the way the drain cleaner was thrown – direct to the victim’s face – indicated that Cheung intended to cause serious harm. The solution had a sulphuric acid concentration of no less than 97 per cent, and was capable of causing severe skin and eye damage.

Cheung, who cried as the sentence was handed down, pleaded guilty last month to throwing corrosive fluid with intent.

Toh said throwing acid, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, was “the most heinous offence that one can think of”.

Medical reports found Shek had suffered chemical burns to six per cent of his body, with grade one burns to his eyes. As a result, the victim was now suffering from a condition known as lagothalmos, meaning he could not close his eyes completely.

A clinical psychologist told the court that Shek had become very anxious about how others viewed his disfiguration, and it affected his day-to-day social interaction.

Cheung was also splashed by the liquid during the attack, leaving her with redness and patches of dry skin on her chest.

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During mitigation, defence counsel Victor Lee said his client was “mentally confused” at the time of the offence as she had only discovered her pregnancy after the pair broke up, and Shek did not seem to care when Cheung told him about the child.

Lee explained to the court that troubles between the pair began back in 2013 when Shek proposed to break up. This prompted Cheung to attempt suicide and also resulted in her becoming an insomniac.

A psychiatrist concluded that Cheung had adjustment disorders, was depressive and prone to harmful use of alcohol.

In a letter to the court, Cheung said she felt remorseful and she only picked up the drain cleaner because it was already in the alley.

Challenging Cheung’s remorseful claim, the judge pointed out that the defendant had continued to go to work the day after the attack.

“It was a measure of how she was feeling,” Toh said.