Three correctional services officers damaged the reputation of their department and the city when they inflicted 117 bruises and wounds on the body of a Taiwanese inmate who died the next day, a judge said yesterday.
Leung Shing-chi, 46, So Ka-wai, 34, and Tang Yuk-po, 48, were jailed for 16 months by the District Court for inflicting serious bodily harm on Chen Chu-nan in 2009. He had been arrested over a telephone scam.
Deputy District Judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung said he had found no sentencing guidelines or precedents for a case of such a severe nature.
He said the aggravating factor was that the three were correctional services officers who acted beyond the powers given to them by the law.
"The defendants were, under the law, entrusted to keep control of and care for the detainees," Lin said. "The public relies on the good judgment of correctional services officers to exercise their power. But the three defendants have failed to live up to the trust and expectations expected under the law and by society.
"The injuries must have caused the victim a lot of pain and eventually cost him his life … Given the severity of the injuries, coupled with the loss of public confidence, I have to send a clear message to society in order to salvage the reputation of the criminal justice system. Such behaviour will not be tolerated."
More than 100 correctional services officers crammed into the courtroom for the sentencing, along with friends and families of the defendants.
Evidence showed that the three officers used force that was "outside lawful power" on the victim's head and thigh, Lin said. As it was unclear who inflicted which wounds, the three would be jointly liable, the judge ruled.
The officers had pleaded not guilty and argued at their trial last month that they were trying to control Chen after he ran into a consultation room at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre's hospital.