Licence review over gun cache in ex-prison officer's flat

Former prison officer jailed for 18 months over weapon and bullet haul at his flat

Austin Chiu

The city's firearms licensing system is being reviewed after a horde of guns, silencers, grenades and almost 4,000 rounds of ammunition were discovered at a retired prison officer's flat.

The Court of First Instance was told of the review as the former guard was jailed for 18 months yesterday.

Leung Kwok-chi's arsenal was discovered after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh while cleaning a rifle in his public housing flat on the Fu Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po, in April last year.

Madam Justice Clare-Marie Beeson said a non-custodial sentence was "not a realistic option" and she had to pass a deterrent term as strict gun control was important to keep a city like Hong Kong safe.

The court heard there are 483 licence holders, 3,140 firearms, 19 gun clubs and 23 licensed gun dealers in Hong Kong.

Although Leung had held an arms licence for more than 25 years, it did not cover the extent of his weapon collection.

Police found seven guns, eight silencers and thousands of rounds of ammunition and other gun components kept without authority.

He pleaded guilty to possession of arms and ammunition without a licence.

The court heard that people who obtained their firearm licences before 1997 were allowed to keep guns at home, while those licensed after that could not.

The judge questioned the logic of this.

"Pre-1997 licence holders are still entitled to keep guns at home. I see no justification for their entitlement to it in the present Hong Kong," she said.

Beeson also said there should be surprise inspections to ensure that guns were being kept properly.

She also criticised Leung for not safely storing his guns, adding that his nine-year-old grandson had access to them whenever he visited.

Prosecutor David Chan said police were reviewing the terms and conditions for granting licence, especially regarding inspection and storage.

Leung, a keen competitor in shooting sports, became obsessed with his gun collection after his daughter died suddenly in 1992 at the age of 18.

He derived satisfaction from cleaning the guns.

He served in the Correctional Services Department from 1970 until 2001.

The judge said it seemed Leung believed that service meant he could ignore the rules.

Beeson jailed him for 18 months in light of his good character and the fact he had lost all his guns and his licence.

The court heard Leung had suffered anxiety, depression and adjustment disorder since he was arrested.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Gun cache prompts review of licence law