Senior Hong Kong cop’s appeal bid focuses on altered footage of Occupy beating
Barrister argues that adjustment may have affected colour tones on film that helped convict Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai
A barrister defending a senior Hong Kong policeman jailed for assaulting a high-profile activist during the Occupy protests complained during an appeal bid that the brightness of a video clip which helped convict his client had been altered.
Selwyn Yu SC argued on Thursday that the adjustment might have had an effect on the overall colour tone of the video clip – part of the footage on which a trial judge relied to identify his client, Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, in the assault that took place at the height of the 79-day pro-democracy campaign in 2014.
Lau and six other police officers were jailed for two years last February after they were found guilty of beating up activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu at a substation near the Occupy protest site in Admiralty on October 15, 2014.
He was the second officer to ask a court to give him the green light needed to properly launch an appeal. In December, Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing was given the nod by the same appeal court.
Tsang’s beating – at a spot many referred to as a “dark corner” because of the poor light – caused an outcry as it was caught on camera by multiple press organisations, including in a live broadcast.
Since Tsang was unable to give a complete account of the assault or the identity of the officers, trial judge David Dufton relied heavily on news footage downloaded from the internet by police investigators and provided by prosecutors to paint the full picture.
Appealing against Lau’s conviction and sentence on Thursday, Yu specifically took issue with some Television Broadcasts footage, the brightness of which had been adjusted before the judge saw it. During the trial Dufton partly identified Lau based on the colour of his clothing.
“The enhancement could go to the colour,” Yu said, complaining of the increased exposure.
“We don’t know without any evidence what colours have been changed.”
But Mr Justice Michael Lunn, who presided over the hearing for leave to appeal, said his colleague only generally described the colour of Lau’s shirt by calling it blue, as opposed to calling it azurite, a more specific shade. He added that the trial judge identified Lau by his black vest and gloves.
During the trial, prosecutors were unable to obtain the original footage from media groups because of a separate court ruling on press freedom. It meant prosecutors had to use online copies as substitutes.
Yu criticised the trial judge’s approach in accepting copies as court evidence, arguing that past cases required original copies when they were available.
Countering, director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC said the so-called best evidence rule was no longer valid. Even if it had applied, he added, it was limited to text-based documents.
Mr Justice Lunn, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, extended Lau’s bail and said he would hand down his decision at a later date.