Cancer prisoner freed on appeal

AN unemployed man dying of lung cancer was yesterday freed by the Court of Appeal in an act of mercy.

The court, in reducing Cheng Wing-tai's nine-month sentence for a drug offence to a term which would enable his immediate release, said that normally the Governor decided on whether to allow an early release for health reasons.

However, they were prepared to take a lenient view in this case, in particular because with the normal remission, Cheng only had two more months to serve, the court held.

He was scheduled for release on October 23.

Cheng, 54, was found guilty of possession of dangerous drugs. He was intercepted by police outside a Tsuen Wan flat on July 25 last year. A total of 24 grams of a heroin mixture was found in his flat.

His counsel on appeal, Dennis Law, said Cheng required radiology, but it was difficult for him to go to the hospital for treatment while in custody.

Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang, delivering judgment for the court, noted it was difficult for the Correctional Services Department to perform the escort duty required for Cheng's regular treatment.

That was not to say the department had not tried its best for Cheng, but the shortage of staff made the regular visits difficult, if not impossible, he said.