Hong Kong Polytechnic University detective Lo Kok-keung will keep coming to the rescue of the wronged

Lo Kok-keung may have retired from his university job, but he will continue to be an expert witness in cases involving mechanics

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 7:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 7:02am

Among local media he has earned a reputation as "Hong Kong's detective Galileo" for solving tricky traffic and commercial disputes with his knowledge of physics and mechanics, vindicating many people who faced false accusations.

So although engineer Lo Kok-keung reluctantly bade farewell last month to Hong Kong Polytechnic University after 40 years of dedicated service, he has never contemplated quitting his other "job" of over 20 years as an expert witness seeking redress for wronged parties.

After all, Lo, also a prolific inventor, is a strong believer in benefiting society through his knowledge and talent.

"Despite my retirement, I'll continue to act as an expert witness for those who need my expert opinion in legal disputes," Lo told the Post. "I hope to apply my knowledge for the good of society and seek justice for the underprivileged and the wrongfully accused."

With a 90 per cent success rate involving about 70 cases that were swayed by his expert reports, it is no wonder the 66-year-old detective has become the most sought after person for those who want to prove their case in disputes involving mechanical matters. He is also a media darling for being readily available to comment on industrial and traffic incidents.

His clients ranged from a badly injured teenager to a grandmother in her 80s, as well as a police officer who was wrongfully convicted of destroying a piece of evidence - a phone Sim card - with his bare hands.

Lo used mechanical theories to demonstrate to the court that it required 21lbs of force to break a Sim card into two pieces, which is impossible with bare hands. The police officer was acquitted on his second appeal.

Needless to say his impressive track record has attracted a flock of clients, including celebrities, who come to him when they get into trouble. But Lo, being a man of principle, has turned down 30 requests, about 30 per cent of the cases he has received, because he could not find any justification or sense of righteousness in helping the people involved.

"I don't work as an expert witness for money. The first thing I consider is whether there is any justification or whether someone is lying," Lo said.

"Helping the underprivileged is my first priority. Even if a driver involved in a car crash did nothing wrong, whenever there are fatalities I always side with the victims. My conscience cannot allow me to help the surviving parties who caused fatal accidents even if it was not their fault. I need to weigh the decision very carefully."

One typical example was a recent case involving a British banker who crashed his Ferrari in the car park of a residential complex in West Kowloon, leaving a security guard dead. "His lawyer asked me if I could help. I just examined the details from media reports and I immediately arrived at a conclusion that there was nothing I could do," he said.

His most recent case involved a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a seven-seater passenger vehicle while crossing a road in Shau Kei Wan a few months ago. To the dismay of his family, the badly injured teenager was charged with the offence of failing to cross the road with care because police ruled out the possibility of speeding, based on estimates of the average speed of the vehicle calculated using CCTV footage.

However, Lo used mechanical engineering formulas to calculate the driving speed at the point before the crash based on the evidence collected at the scene, such as the distance between the teenager and the vehicle. He found that the motorist was driving above the speed limit before the crash. With his expert report, the prosecution finally dropped the charge against the teenager.

Another case he took pride in was helping a grandmother in her 80s who suffered bad back injuries last December as she was preparing to get off a Kowloon Motor Bus vehicle.

The driver had suddenly slammed on the brakes, causing the woman to lurch forward towards the driver's seat. Police decided not to lay charges against the driver because of a lack of prima facie evidence.

Lo used his knowledge of mechanics to calculate that the driver applied the brakes ahead of a red traffic light while he was driving above the speed limit. The bus company finally agreed to reach a settlement with the elderly woman.

However, it was the first commercial dispute he handled 21 years ago that brought him to the public's attention. A businessman who mistakenly purchased dirty diesel oil, leading to a breakdown in his factory's electric generator, sought his help after watching him on television discussing the difference between leaded and unleaded petrol.

"The leading counsel in this case was former justice secretary Wong Yan-lung. I was very nervous then as this was the first time I appeared as an expert witness. But Wong was very good in leading me to give my expert testimony," he recalled.

His expert testimony was eventually adopted by the court, resulting in a big victory for the businessman against the oil supplier. Since then, solicitors' firms have been seeking his opinion whenever they come across tricky cases.

Lo's ceaseless pursuit of mechanical engineering knowledge stemmed from his inherent interest in machinery since childhood.

"Mechanical engineering has ruled my life," he said in an interview with the Post in 2003.

"When I was young, my family was too poor to buy me toys so I made them myself."

Lo, now a father of three, salvaged broken tin toys in the street and fixed them using cooking oil. He also made a film projector with a spinning reel when he was young.

At the age of 15, he decided to drop out of high school and followed his father to work at Tai Koo Dockyard and Engineering Company as an apprentice.

At the same time he studied at the department of mechanical engineering at the Hong Kong Technical College, the forerunner of Polytechnic University, where he graduated in 1972.

He worked as an assistant engineer for China Light and Power before joining what is now Polytechnic University in 1975 as a lecturer. However, it took him over 20 years to become a chartered engineer and registered professional engineer.

In 2000, he was transferred from a teaching position to help run the laboratories of the university's mechanical engineering department.

Being an avid fan of machinery, Lo has invented a lot of devices for making people's lives easier, including an automatic hazard-warning-indicator light aimed at preventing traffic accidents, a bus alert device warning drivers when they turn sharp corners and a rotating stage for performances, which gained wide recognition.

Lo Kok-Keung

Age: 66

1972: Graduates from the Hong Kong Technical College
1975: Joins the Hong Kong Polytechnic as a lecturer
2000: Transfers to help run the Polytechnic University laboratories

Expert witness in all things mechanical
Inventor of various devices, including a rotating stage and a bus alert mechanism