Drug charge against High Court judge's son dropped

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am

A High Court judge's son caught with Ecstasy at a disco had his case dropped yesterday after prosecutors decided it was not in the public interest to blight his future with a conviction.

Godfrey Nguyen Gia-huy, 21, the youngest son of Mr Justice Peter Nguyen, was bound over for the sum of $2,000 for two years. He pleaded not guilty to possession of a dangerous drug but admitted the facts of the case before magistrate Catherine Lo Kit-yee at Western Court. No conviction was recorded against him.

A Department of Justice source said the decision not to prosecute Nguyen was unrelated to his background but based on independent legal advice from 'an experienced barrister'.

Nguyen, a student at Boston University in the United States, was caught with two Ecstasy tablets at the Star East Disco in Central at 2.40am on July 27, the court heard. Under caution, he told police he had just split up with his girlfriend and wanted to feel better by taking the pills.

Prosecutor Esther Mak told the court Nguyen's lawyers had approached the Department of Justice asking for the charge to be dropped, which prompted the department to seek advice from the barrister.

'[The] counsel considered aspects including the age of the accused, his clear record, the quantity of drugs involved and the surrounding circumstances of the case,' Ms Mak said. 'He concluded the consequences of prosecution would be out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence and advised it was not necessary in the public interest to pursue this prosecution.'

Nguyen's case came on the heels of a similar case last Monday, when Assistant Director of Housing Poon Kai-tak, 47, was bound over for theft and assault. The Director of Prosecution concluded it was not in the public interest to pursue the case in light of Mr Poon's psychiatric problems.

The source said public interest was a general description which encompassed various factors that led to the decision not to prosecute Mr Poon or Nguyen.

'Many people believe we dropped the cases because of public interest, full stop. But we don't just take public interest as the only consideration,' he said.

He added the decision to bind over Nguyen was on the grounds that prosecution against him would have 'dire consequences' to his future.

'We are not concerned with what the defendant's father did, [but] with what the defendant did.

'If the individual circumstances of a case, such as the accused's good character, justifies our stopping prosecution, we will [stop],' he said.

The source cited a similar case in which a student with a clear record accused of a drug offence was also bound over last week after his lawyer suggested the Department of Justice drop the case in view of the young man's background.

But the source conceded a binding-over order for a drug-related offence was rare.