A Court of Appeal judge described as unfortunate a comment by the magistrate sentencing top judge's niece Amina Mariam Bokhary that the defendant had a 'good background'.
Vice-President of the Court of Appeal Frank Stock made the observation in a judgment which explained the court's decision to extend Bokhary's one-year driving ban to three years for failing to provide a breath sample, but not to replace a HK$5,000 fine with a jail term.
Stock was referring to Magistrate Anthony Yuen Wai-ming's remark in August last year that Bokhary had a good background because she came from a well-off and caring family, which sparked public concern over the sentence handed down.
But Stock noted: 'It must also be remembered that by reason of the same principles of level-headedness and fairness ... the courts do not visit extra punishment, or brush aside true mitigating factors in respect of a defendant who happens to be from a privileged background.'
Despite his criticism of Yuen's remark, Stock said he had no doubt that Yuen had not passed 'lenient sentences' in favour of Bokhary because of her background.
He said a fine and a disqualification were suitable for the offence because it was the first time the 35-year-old niece of Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary had committed a traffic offence and she was suffering from a significant mental ailment.
On January 27 last year, Bokhary's car collided with a tour bus in Stubbs Road, Happy Valley, damaging the front of both vehicles. She then slapped a police officer who tried to stop her from leaving - an offence for which she spent six weeks in jail after breaching a probation order.
Another judge, Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, wrote that Bokhary's assault on a police officer was 'of course a very serious matter'.
'Police officers, in the proper execution of their duties, are symbols of law and order and must be respected and protected from abuse,' he said.
'If contemptuous and abusive behaviour towards police officers were tolerated, law and order would be compromised,' he said.
Yeung said he decided to extend the driving ban to protect members of the public. Amina Bokhary will not be allowed to drive until August 2013.
Initially, the probation order imposed by Yuen for slapping the officer - which provoked protests by hundreds who called it too lenient - was also a subject of the prosecution's application. But on December 23, acting Principal Magistrate Amanda Jane Woodcock revoked the order, having found Bokhary had breached five of seven probation conditions.
Woodcock resentenced Bokhary to six weeks in jail for assaulting a police officer.
The judgment was handed down by Mr Justice Yeung, acting Chief Judge Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching and Mr Justice Stock.