Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong jury convicts man of rape after judge refuses to allow him to reverse plea for second time

‘This is not a game, this is a court of law,’ judge tells Cheung Tsz-hong, 28, who claimed his lawyers misled him before he plead guilty to seven charges including rape and false imprisonment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 12:36pm

A man was convicted of raping two women on Tuesday after a Hong Kong judge refused to allow him to reverse his plea for a second time in less than a week, accusing him of making a mockery of the court.

In what Madam Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling described as a “most unusual” case, Cheung Tsz-hong, 28, was convicted by a jury after Barnes directed it to return unanimous guilty verdicts on four counts of rape and one count each of false imprisonment, indecent assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Cheung had shocked the court on Friday when he changed his plea to guilty after emotional testimony from one of his victims the day before. On Tuesday, his first day back in court, he attempted to flip his plea back to not guilty, drawing the ire of Barnes.

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“This is not a game, this is a court of law. You have to be responsible for what you do,” Barnes said before she threw out Cheung’s application to change his plea.

Prosecutors revealed that Cheung, who was born in mainland China, had six previous convictions in the past decade, including theft, indecent assault and unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16.

In his latest run-in with the law, the High Court heard that Cheung lured two women into his Tuen Mun flat to sexually assault them after they connected on Facebook in December 2016.

One of them broke down in tears last Thursday as she testified on how she was tied, drugged, slapped, burned and threatened at knifepoint, before Cheung raped her three times while she was imprisoned at his flat for 72 hours.

But before she completed her testimony, Cheung surprised the court the following day by pleading guilty to the seven charges.

However, on Tuesday he blamed his lawyers for the change of plea.

“I was misled by the lawyers,” Cheung said. “And earlier on, I did not know that if I pleaded guilty I could not appeal the conviction.”

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His defence counsel Geoffrey Chang said he misinformed Cheung about the amount of time the sentence would be reduced by if a guilty plea was entered. Rape is punishable by up to life imprisonment.

But Barnes pointed out that reductions in sentencing have always been a discretionary matter.

“For a plea to be reversed it has to be an equivocal one,” the judge explained. “The defendant had clearly and unequivocally admitted his guilt – for this reason, the defendant’s application is refused.”

There will be a sentencing hearing on August 20, pending the assessment of Cheung’s mental condition, as well as the impact on his victims.

On that day, Cheung will also be punished for possession of drug paraphernalia.

A separate charge of robbery, which Cheung denied, has been left on court file, meaning prosecutors cannot pursue without the court’s permission.