Stress and long hours not an excuse for lack of restraint by police, prosecutor says in Occupy assault trial
Lawyers submit their closing statements in court case against retired superintendent Frankly Chu
Stress and long hours of police work during the 2014 Occupy protests were not an excuse for lack of restraint by officers when dealing with the public, prosecutors said on Monday at the trial of a former policeman accused of assaulting a bystander.
Yet, Frankly Chu did not hold back when he took out his anger on a man obeying instructions to leave an area cordoned off by police, prosecutor Daniel Marash SC said, closing his case against the former superintendent.
Chu, 57, faces one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on Osman Cheng Chung-hang, 28, after allegedly hitting him in the neck with a baton during the civil disobedience movement that saw thousands occupy the streets across the city for greater democracy.
“One must ask why it was necessary to make Cheng comply when he was already complying to leave,” Marash said. “It is submitted that the defendant’s act was not done for this purpose, but as an act of revenge.”
The case against Chu hinges on whether the baton blow constituted reasonable use of force and whether Chu had honestly and reasonably believed it to be so.
Prosecutors must prove that Cheng suffered actual bodily harm – meaning more than a minor injury and more than transitory pain – caused by Chu assaulting him with an intention to inflict hurt.
Marash said the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Chu hit Cheng in anger after seeing him talk to a colleague.
“No doubt, the defendant was under great stress at the time of the incident after so many days of battling the Occupy movement,” he continued. “But, regrettably, that does not excuse his action in using his baton on Cheng in the way he did.”
But defence counsel Peter Pannu countered that Chu’s action was justified and protected by an immunity clause from the Public Order Ordinance, because his client had genuinely perceived Cheng as aggressive when he suddenly turned his head to another officer.
“As long as [my client] acts in good faith, we say [the clause applies] and the court cannot find him guilty,” he said.
The protection, according to Pannu, had never been raised in Hong Kong courts since it was first introduced 131 years ago in 1886. “Unfortunately you may be the first one to deal with this provision,” he told Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai.
If the justification fails, Pannu said the court should still consider a lesser charge of common assault.
“There was no discernible injury whatsoever in this case,” he argued. “[My client] is a very well-trained superintendent so he’s got skills in using the baton.”
The closing arguments will continue on Wednesday.