Years of 'dreadful hardship' imposed on a mainland doctor during the Cultural Revolution should be taken into account when she is sentenced for performing an illegal abortion on a 15-year-old girl, a judge heard yesterday. Defence counsel John Hagon said proof of Lai Pui-heung's good character lay in her remarkable medical career on the mainland despite 11 years on a farming commune from 1966. The 52-year-old, who was convicted of having performed the illegal operation on April 5 last year, was a highly qualified doctor on the mainland, the lawyer told Deputy Judge Louis Tong Po-sun in the Court of First Instance. 'For this lady to have gone through what she has done in her life is itself of tremendous credit to her,' Mr Hagon said. Lai still maintains her innocence and says that a Dr Cheung - who has never been found - performed the operation while she served as a nurse. But the girl, now 16, identified Lai as the one responsible, and said Lai warned her to keep the procedure a secret as it was illegal. The case came to light a month later when the girl was admitted to hospital with abdominal pain. The judge adjourned sentencing until August 23.