Police attacked over bungled arrest

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am

Legislators call for review of procedures in charging man over celebrity sex photos

Police came in for widespread public condemnation yesterday for their handling of the celebrity sex photos saga, including accusations that they had arrested a man just to try to stop further circulation of the pictures.

Legislators called for a review of procedures under which Chung Yik-tin, 29, was charged with publishing an obscene document before the picture in question was classified by the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

Nearly half the 687 respondents to a telephone poll by the Democratic Party said they were dissatisfied with what the police had done.

More than 70 per cent of the respondents said the police should clarify the definition of the law.

And 51 per cent believed the arrest of Chung - freed yesterday after the picture was classified as indecent, not obscene - was intended to intimidate the public to stop circulating the scandalous photographs.

Democrat Sin Chung-kai urged Commissioner of Police Tang King-shing to make a public apology over the handling of the case.

Mr Sin will propose a motion at a Legislative Council meeting on March 5 to review the police's handling of the case.

Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah of the Civic Party said he would meet Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung soon to express concern over the inappropriate prosecution.

Mr Tong said the case exposed weaknesses in police practices and the prosecution had been carried out without concrete proof.

Democrat James To Kun-sun said police should not have made any arrest without sufficient evidence and legal basis. It had been a very serious mistake to charge Chung with distributing an obscene article while it was only indecent, merely in an attempt to stop the public circulation of the nude photos.

Chinese University journalism professor Anthony Fung Ying-him said the police should not have arrested Chung before having the articles concerned classified by the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

But police defended their handling of the case, insisting no mistakes had been made. 'Under the laws, we have done correctly. We have not departed from our normal practices,' assistant commissioner Vincent Wong Fook-chuen said.

Website inmediahk.com editor Lam Oi-wan, who visited Chung during his detention and helped organise legal support for him, said: 'The police should apologise. All they wanted to do was to arrest someone hoping to stop the photos from being circulated.'

She said the incident also showed how helpless poor people were within the legal system.

Ms Lam said that during a visit to Chung at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre earlier this month, Chung had expressed fears of being charged with other offences.

Michael Tsui Kit-sang, organiser of the '2.10 Internet Users March', said Chung's release after two weeks on remand showed police handling of the case was problematic. Police were at fault for putting themselves in such a situation.

The internet community applauded Chung's release and condemned police for his arrest. User andylam981 wrote on www.discuss. com.hk that the police force's handling of the case was shameful and the public was disappointed by it.

But University of Hong Kong law lecturer Eric Cheung Tak-ming believed police had been right to charge Chung.

'In a criminal case, if the [Obscene Articles] tribunal classifies an article before the case has gone through the court, it poses more disadvantages to the defendant as the case is prejudged,' he said.