A defendant charged with trafficking dangerous drugs was cleared in the District Court yesterday after the prosecution refused to reveal the identity of an informer who tipped off police.
Tsoi King-hung, 22, was found with just over 7 grams of cocaine - which police valued at nearly HK$14,000 - in his car at To Kwa Wan in May, but claimed he must have been set up by the informer.
Tsoi's lawyer, Kelvin Lai, used a recent judgment from the Court of Appeal to urge the prosecution to release the informer's identity. The information was necessary as it might demonstrate the innocence of the accused, Lai argued.
Prosecutor Robert Lee Kan-yung responded: "After considering public interests and the safety of the informer and his family, the prosecution declines to disclose details of the informer."
He said a disclosure in this case might have a negative impact on potential informers and pose difficulties to the authorities in future investigations.
The prosecution also decided to offer no further evidence against Tsoi, Lee said.
Deputy Judge Timothy Casewell said the credibility of the witnesses could not be "determined in full" in these circumstances and acquitted Tsoi.
In the judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal on December 31, Madam Justice Maria Yuen Ka-ning said: "Where a defendant is, in appropriate circumstances, entitled to disclosure of an informer's identity, he is entitled to it in the actual proceedings where he is prosecuted for an offence, not only in other proceedings."
The court heard the police stopped Tsoi's car in Chi Kiang Street on May 27. Officers found a black cardboard box in the gap between the driver's seat and the car door.
Inside the box was a plastic bag containing the cocaine.
Lai noted that officers also found in the car fingerprints made by another person, who then made a statement to police but was not called as a witness. He suggested that the person might be related to the informer or could even be the informer.
The lawyer said Tsoi insisted he had no knowledge of the drugs. Tsoi believed someone had planted the packet in the car and had alerted the police.
Lai said that in these circumstances, the prosecution had to divulge the informer's identity as it was the only way for the defendant to have a fair trial.