The Court of Appeal has warned the Justice Department that its current method of prosecuting illegal immigrants caught committing crimes in Hong Kong resulted in mainland criminals being punished twice. Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore made the comments yesterday as he reduced the sentences of mainlanders Ma Hon Wu Chi-man, Shek Tsz-yuk and Wong Shing by one year. The illegal immigrants' sentences for robbery were initially increased by 18 months because they illegally entered the territory to commit their crimes. But the Court of Appeal heard that in addition, the men were later sentenced in a magistrates' court to 15 months' jail for unlawfully remaining in the SAR. 'It is unfortunate . . . that the [sentencing] judge was not informed about the further proceedings at the Tuen Mun Magistrates' Court,' Mr Justice Stuart-Moore said. 'In fact, we express the earnest hope that when the Court of First Instance comes to deal with any similar situations, the prosecution would make its duty to inform the court of the procedures which are yet to be taken in the magistrates' court.' The Court of Appeal heard that Ma and another unidentified man broke into the Pat Heung home of Lam Yat-shan on April 26 last year and threatened him with a chopper and fruit knife before tying his hands and feet and stuffing a sock in his mouth. They fled with the man's wallet after ransacking his home. During sentencing before then-deputy judge Gerard McCoy, Ma's term was increased by 18 months to five years and eight months to reflect the fact he was an illegal immigrant when he committed the crimes. At the time, deputy judge McCoy said a significant number of illegal immigrants from the mainland were entering the SAR to commit serious crimes and a deterrent sentence was required. Later that day, Ma was taken to the Tuen Mun Magistrates' Court, where he received an additional 15 months' jail for unlawfully staying in the SAR. 'We are left with the distinct feeling, therefore, that the appellant in this particular regard has inadvertently been punished twice for the same criminality,' Mr Justice Stuart-Moore said. He said the same thing happened to Shek and Wong, who came to Hong Kong on a raft before entering the home of a 68-year-old couple, whom they terrorised with choppers while demanding clothes. They were caught when the woman's cries for help were heard by villagers. Shek and Wong were sentenced to five years and eight months on November 14 last year after pleading guilty in the Court of First Instance before Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee. Mr Justice Stuart-Moore reduced the robbery sentences of all three by one year, to four years and eight months. However, their 15-month terms for unlawfully remaining were upheld, to be served consecutively.