Fair trial ruled out by health of former banker

FORMER Far East Bank chairman Mr Deacon Chiu Te-ken could not have a fair trial because he had suffered a serious deterioration in his intellectual and memory functions during the long delay, a High Court judge held.

Mr Justice Leonard, giving his reasons for stopping the criminal proceedings against Mr Chiu, was satisfied this was a rare and exceptional case and accepted Mr Chiu's medical condition was progressive and had a gravely adverse effect on his ability to conduct his defence.

But the judge, while granting Mr Chiu's application for a permanent stay of proceedings on March 31, rejected a similar request by his son, David Chiu Tat-cheong.

Father and son had lodged the application on the grounds of abuse of process and under the Bill of Rights, saying there had been a delay of 101/2 years from the time of the alleged offence to the trial date.

The judge, while of the view the delay was unjustified and that the Chius' right to a trial without undue delay as provided by the bill had been infringed, held David Chiu had failed to show it was not possible for him to have a fair trial.

Mr Chiu, 68, was acquitted. David Chiu, 38, will go on trial.

Mr Chiu was indicted on a total of 14 conspiracy charges which had allegedly occurred between 1983 and 1985 involving loans amounting to $352.5 million; David Chiu was jointly charged on six counts.

In his written reasons handed down yesterday, Mr Justice Leonard said he was satisfied the long delay from the time when the loans came to the attention of the authorities to the date when the trial was scheduled to begin was unjustified.

As a result of long and unnecessary delays in the investigation and in the preparation of the Crown's case, he said, the Chius were prejudiced in the preparation of their defence.

''There was a very strong inference of prejudice to the memories of witnesses from the long period which has elapsed, even though much of the case depends on documents,'' he said.

''I found that the right of each applicant under Article 11 [of the Bill of Rights] to a trial without undue delay had been infringed.'' However, he was of the view that despite the prejudice and the infringement of his rights, David Chiu had failed to show on the balance of probabilities that it was not possible for him to have a fair trial.

It was not the case that every such infringement must automatically lead to a stay of proceedings.

Mr Justice Leonard said the prejudice to Mr Deacon Chiu was far greater because, during the long delay, he had suffered a serious deterioration in his intellectual and memory functions.