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Hong Kong courts

11 months in jail for speeding Hong Kong driver whose tram overturned, leaving 11 in hospital

Lo Chi-leung says he plans to quit the profession and become a baker, after being disqualified from driving for two years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 7:14pm

A young driver whose actions left 11 people in hospital last year when his tram overturned as he was speeding home was jailed for 11 months on Wednesday after telling a court he would quit and start baking.

Lo Chi-leung, 24, nodded at District Court judge Isaac Tam Sze-lok as he was disqualified from driving any vehicle for two years following his guilty plea to one count of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

Lo was slammed by the judge for putting passengers of a public vehicle at risk with his “bad driving”. On April 6 last year he failed to apply the correct speed while negotiating a bend near Bank Street in the Hong Kong financial district of Central shortly after midnight.

But the judge acknowledged that inexperience might have contributed to the “very serious” case and gave Lo a one-month reduction on his sentence. An initial jail term of 20 months had already been shortened by a third as credit for Lo’s timely guilty plea.

Wednesday’s sentencing came after a background report revealed Lo had suffered from depression in the aftermath of the incident as he felt very remorseful.

The District Court also heard that Lo started driving trams due to his love for buses and aspiration to become a bus driver, but that he had since resigned from operator Hong Kong Tramways, determined to become a baker after his discharge from prison.

Driver of Hong Kong tram that overturned outside Bank of China HQ admits speeding at twice limit

Tram accidents are rare in Hong Kong. The last known case of one overturning was back in 1983 when a concrete mixer rammed into a tram in Shau Kei Wan, injuring 21 people.

In the present case, the court heard how Lo had been driving as fast as 31.2km/h despite being reminded during training that there was a 15km/h limit for navigating turns such as the one near Bank Street. The tram subsequently derailed and wobbled left then right, before toppling onto its left side.

Eleven passengers were sent to hospital. One man suffered a teardrop fracture to his spine, a partial dislocation of his left shoulder joint, and a sprained neck and left shoulder joint. Another passenger had a fractured left clavicle and left scapula.

Defence counsel Nelson Lam previously revealed in mitigation that his client had “tried to go faster so he could go home to see people dear to him”.

Then and now: following the old tramway on Hong Kong Island

He asked for community service as punishment, noting that Lo had already been warned and punished through “a good deal of shame and embarrassment to himself and his family members”.

But the judge noted that a dominant sentencing principle applying to such offences was “general deterrence, with a secondary purpose of educating the public about the potential dangers of driving and the social responsibility of all drivers to drive safely”.

“Mr Lo was lucky there was no loss of life,” the judge said.

Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$50,000 fine, on top of disqualification from driving.