Public barred from courtroom at Edward Leung’s Mong Kok riot trial after picture of jurors leaked by email
Less than an hour after presiding judge announced removal, jury returned to find pro-independence activist guilty of rioting but clearing him of incitement
Members of the public were booted out of the courtroom less than an hour before Hong Kong pro-independence activist Edward Leung Tin-kei heard his fate in the Mong Kok riot trial on Friday.
Someone had taken a photo of at least four of the nine jurors and sent it to an email account belonging to the judiciary’s complaints office, flouting the rule that photography is not allowed in Hong Kong courts.
At about 4.30pm, presiding judge Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam reconvened the session to tell the court about the photo. An accompanying line in the email stated “there is a lot more”, Pang said.
A police source said the photo was taken inside the courtroom.
The jury had been cloistered in the High Court since early afternoon on Wednesday to deliberate on their decision, after about 50 days of hearings.
Pang told the 30 or so people in court that someone who had been attending the hearings was not following the rules. She had, during the course of the hearing, specifically stated that photography was banned and had issued an additional court order.
“Although the court has no way to ascertain its aims, the act has brought risk to the integrity of this trial,” she stressed, saying the incident could pressure the jurors and “subject them to interference”.
She announced that members of the public were no longer allowed in the courtroom, but they could still watch the video streaming of the verdict on televisions in the court lobby, which was an extension of the courtroom during the trial.
Pang said after the jury reached their verdict, the police would arrange to escort them back to their homes. They could also call a 24-hour hotline if they had any questions.
The judge added that police had been called in to follow up on the case over the photo.
According to the police source, officers from the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau would be carrying out investigations at the High Court building in Admiralty on Friday night.
Section 7 of the Summary Offences Ordinance states that photography is prohibited in Hong Kong courts and offenders are liable to a fine of HK$2,000 (US$255). Under the common law, any interference with the jury can be considered contempt of court.
Leung, 26, and four others faced incitement, riot and unlawful assembly charges over the riot that took place in Mong Kok, a popular area in the city, on February 8 and 9 in 2016.
Additional reporting by Christy Leung