Mercy plea over gangster's jail care

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am

Notorious gangster Yip Kai-foon has been left depressed and close to tears because of substandard prison care for his 'appalling' gunshot injuries, a court heard yesterday.

Yip, once Hong Kong's most wanted man, was lying on a makeshift foam mattress covered with a sheet soaked in urine, according to a doctor who visited him in Stanley Prison's hospital ward.

Dr Fali Shroff said in a report the mattress was 'completely unacceptable' for Yip, who is paralysed from the chest down.

He added that the standard of care had fallen below that available outside the prison.

Yip, 37, is serving a record 41-year sentence for possessing explosives, shooting at police, escaping from custody and kidnapping. He was gunned down by a constable during a shootout in Kennedy Town in May 1996.

The former gang boss has suffered from bed sores, a urinary tract infection and depression while in jail.

Dr Shroff said his condition, if untreated, would be likely to develop into fatal blood-poisoning or a bone infection.

Gary Plowman SC, for Yip, urged the Court of Appeal to slash his sentence as an act of mercy.

'A sentence should not be so crushing as to make it impossible for the prisoner to have any reasonable hope of salvaging any worthwhile substance from his life,' Mr Plowman said.

He said the sentence was excessive and would lead to Yip spending longer behind bars than if he had been jailed for life.

Mr Plowman said the court should take into account his suffering in prison as a result of 'permanent and very serious injuries which will incapacitate him for the rest of his life'.

When Yip was seen by Dr Shroff last May he was depressed and on the verge of tears. He had lost between 7kg and 10kg and had had his life expectancy reduced by 10 to 15 years as a result of his injuries, Mr Plowman said.

He argued that his crimes, although serious, were not of the worst kind.

But Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross SC, said the sentence was needed 'to demonstrate adequately that these offences were at the top of the bracket in terms of seriousness'.

He added that the long prison term 'would show the public was not prepared to tolerate such behaviour'.

Mr Cross said government doctor Chan Kheng-bee stated in his report that Yip was being held in a new hospital at the prison with modified shower and toilet facilities to suit his needs.

He was given close medical attention and bedclothes would be changed immediately if they became wet with urine.

'They are doing everything they can for him,' Mr Cross said.

Mr Justice Noel Power, Mr Justice Simon Mayo and Mr Justice Barry Mortimer will give their ruling later.