Stay on property charges refused

A MAGISTRATE yesterday refused to stay proceedings against a woman interpreter accused of obtaining property by deception, despite a defence argument that the prosecution should have dealt with the case when the defendant was before the courts on different charges last year.

Ho Po-chong, 44, has denied three counts of obtaining US$6,500 (HK$50,199) from a Vietnamese refugee by deception, claiming that the money was for expenses to employ a solicitor.

Defence counsel Mr Graeme Hagon told Western Court that cross-examination would be prejudiced because he would have to raise points about his client's earlier convictions.

He also alleged: ''This lady has been oppressed. The mere fact that these facts have been laid is in my submission oppressive.'' But Senior Assistant Crown Prosecutor Mr Michael McMahon said the charges Ho had faced in December last year related to different victims, different dates and different offences.

He told the magistrate: ''I can't see how it is that the defendant's plea in December 1992 will affect the case in such a way that she can't get a fair trial before you. Her plea of guilty [on an earlier occasion] will be ignored by you because it is irrelevant.'' He emphasised that a magistrate was ''a professional jurist'' who would not be prejudiced in the way a jury may be prejudiced by prior court proceedings.

Magistrate Miss Loh Kim-wan said she found there was ''no prejudice or oppression to the defendant'' and refused to grant a stay of proceedings.

She did agree for the case to be heard before a fresh tribunal ''in the interests of justice''.

The trial date was then fixed for May 21. Bail was extended.