Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong policeman found guilty of theft attempt on MTR train after sergeant catches him out

  • Officer tried to conceal effort to steal from passenger by covering hands with jacket
  • Plain-clothes sergeant travelling in same carriage confronted the man
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 10:40pm

A Hong Kong police officer was found guilty on Monday of attempting to steal from a Nepali woman on a crowded MTR train.

Kowloon City Court heard how Leung Hung-kei, 32, had hung his jacket over his left forearm before slipping his right arm under the garment to conceal his fingers as they unzipped the woman’s backpack during a train ride from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui on February 6.

His act was seen by a sergeant out of uniform, who had been observing his suspicious conduct since before Leung boarded.

When confronted, Leung fled the scene.

He argued at trial that he had been framed by the sergeant, with whom he had allegedly exchanged hostile looks after accidentally bumping into the fellow policeman, who was on duty at the time.

Rather than attempting to steal, Leung had merely been holding his arms to his chest to protect and balance himself on the train, he explained.

He had decided to run, he said, because he was worried the “misunderstanding” would affect his career.

But Deputy Magistrate Frances Leung Nga-yan found the defendant’s claim he had been framed to be unreasonable, and rejected his evidence.

“The court believes the defendant was not an honest witness,” she said.

Officer Leung had a clear record before he was found guilty of attempted theft on Monday.

His former supervisor, who testified as a character witness, said he was a responsible employee and performed excellently at work.

‘Eternal vigilance’ needed to uphold Hong Kong’s rule of law, judge says

Letters submitted by the defendant’s wife and sister in mitigation further painted him as a loving husband and a responsible father to two young children.

Defence counsel Bruce Tse Chee-ho said the policeman of 12 years was expected to lose his job, his family living quarters and hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars in pension payments.

“That in itself is a punishment,” the counsel said. “He will have a difficult road ahead.”

The magistrate said she would have to consider immediate imprisonment because “one is typically jailed for this offence”.

However, she also observed that the defendant’s conduct appeared out of character for no reason.

Sentencing was adjourned to November 5, pending reports on the suitability of community service.

The defendant was remanded in custody.