Paraplegic gangster allowed to challenge sentence in top court

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 12:00am

Gangster Yip Kai-foon is to go to the Court of Final Appeal with arguments that his 36-year jail term should be slashed because of his 'catastrophic' medical condition.

Yip, 38, paralysed by gunshot wounds in a shootout with police, appeared to be in pain and asked for a doctor before a brief court appearance yesterday.

But he managed a fleeting smile when appeal judges said the length of his sentence was an issue of sufficient importance for the top court.

A pale and frail Yip, who sat in a wheelchair with a nurse in attendance, is a paraplegic and also suffers from intestinal and bladder complications.

His health is said to have deteriorated this year and his life expectancy is lower than the jail term he has to serve.

The question raised by Yip's lawyers is whether the courts, when passing sentence, should consider serious injuries suffered by an offender while committing a crime.

Andrew Macrae SC, said: 'In a case of very serious injuries, in exceptional cases, the court is abdicating its responsibility if it does not take this factor of grave injuries or medical condition in the assessment of sentences.

'If it is permitted to take into account the effect of an offender's crime on his job, marriage or family, why should one ignore the catastrophic effects on his health which are a direct result of his crimes?' The Court of Appeal, when considering Yip's case in April, ruled that his medical condition was a matter for the Chief Executive, who can order an early release from jail, rather than the judges.

Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross SC argued that the Chief Executive, after receiving advice by doctors, was in a better position to decide the state of Yip's health.

'There is no suggestion he is going to die next week or next month,' he said.

If in 12 months' time it was found Yip had only six months to live, that would be the time to consider whether he should be released, Mr Cross said.

Yip is serving his sentence for escaping from custody, kidnapping, shooting at police and possessing a massive haul of explosives. A police bullet lodged in his spine during the shootout before his arrest in 1996.