Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Legal scholar calls for database of false police testimony after Occupy cases reveal unreliability

HKFP Occupy one year on

A legal scholar has called for the establishment of an information database to record instances of false police testimony, after many cases related to the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement have revealed the their unreliability, Ming Pao reports.

Close to one thousand people were arrested in relation to the 79-day Occupy protests. Judgement has been handed down in 140 of the 209 cases to have begun judicial proceedings, resulting in acquittal or the withdrawal of charges in 40 cases.

In cases relating to at least nine defendants, charges have been dropped after video evidence supplied by the defense cast doubt on police testimony.

Forty of these 209 cases have been for the offense of assaulting a police officer, which, at 55 per cent, has the highest rate of “not guilty” verdicts compared to other offenses. In ten per cent of cases, charges have been withdrawn by the prosecution.

defendant Lau

The defendant who was accused of jogging towards Police cordon. Photo: Apple Daily.

Earlier this month, a 27-year-old Occupy activist accused of “jogging” towards police cordon lines was acquitted of obstruction charges after video evidence contradicted the account given by police, with the magistrate slamming the officer’s testimony as completely unreliable.

A magistrate has also asked for a case to be referred to the Complaints Against Police Office after another police officer was found to be an unreliable witness.

University of Hong Kong lecturer and  Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said that the city’s police force should address this issue and set up an information database to record down all instances in which a judge has criticised the reliability of police testimony.

eric cheung

Eric Cheung Tat-ming. Photo: Apple Daily.

Cheung told Ming Pao that senior police officers write up internal reports when a “not guilty” verdict is handed out, but the IPCC has no authority in the cases unless the relevant parties file a complaint.

How the IPCC handles the cases referred to them will demonstrate their capability to process complaints fairly, Cheung added. He also urged Commissioner of Police Lo Wai-chung to ensure the matter is seriously dealt with, otherwise the public will lose confidence in the police force.

Alvin Yeung

Alvin Yeung.

Defence counsel Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said that the emerging trend of the defense having to find evidence to disprove police testimony means that defendants are guilty until proven innocent, shifting the burden of proof away from the prosecution.

Other legal professionals have also noted that lying under oath in court of law constitutes perjury, which is a criminal offense.

Legal scholar calls for database of false police testimony after Occupy cases reveal unreliability