Seven police officers who were found guilty on Tuesday of assaulting activist Ken Tsang during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests have asked for non-jail options, citing reasons including the loss of a job and the end of a romantic relationship.
Senior Counsel Lawrence Lok, representing police chief inspector Wong Cho-shing, asked the court to disregard public opinion and pressure in handing down the sentence. He said that although the assault case was focused on the officers’ misconduct, they also suffered humiliation.
Lok said his client and other frontline officers were attacked and given insulting names such as “evil cops” and “police dogs” by protesters. He added that Wong had been on duty for around 48 hours on the night in question.
In the verdict, Judge David Dufton of the District Court held that Wong and another senior officer failed to uphold their duty to prevent the commission of a crime when they stood by and watched their subordinates attack Tsang.
But Lok, describing Wong as a competent leader, said it was unfortunate that the judge believed he encouraged the crime, Stand News reported.
Counsel for constable Kwan Ka-ho asked for a suspended sentence on the basis that the officer lost his job and “the love of his life” following his arrest.
He revealed that Kwan broke up with his girlfriend of seven years owing to the pressure mounted on him by the court case. Kwan originally planned to marry his girlfriend, but now he is troubled by a commercial dispute with her over a jointly owned property.
Counsel for constable Chan Siu-tan said the conviction ruined the future of the officer and affected the livelihoods of his family. He asked the court to “have mercy” on the officer.
Meanwhile, Senior Counsel Cheng Huan for senior inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai said that Tsang – who was earlier convicted of assaulting police with liquid on the same day when he was filmed being beaten by the officers – was not a “genuine” protester and his actions on the night of his arrest were “deplorable.”
The officers’ lawyer also read aloud mitigation letters from their supervisors, asking the court to take into account the services they had performed for the Hong Kong public over the years.
Judge Dufton will hand down the sentence on Friday. In the meantime, the officers will be held in custody.
The seven defendants did not seek government assistance to pay their legal fees, local media reported.
The officers were suspended from work following their arrest in 2015 and paid partial salaries. It is unclear how much they were paid following their prosecution, but HK01 cited sources as saying that they received at least HK$3.1 million in salary in total since the charges were brought against them.
RTHK cited sources as saying that the officers will remain suspended from work until the appeal process is completed. The force will then decide whether to take disciplinary action against them, the report said.
Under the Police Force Ordinance, police officers who are convicted of an offence will not be given any salary or allowance unless it is approved by the police chief.
On Tuesday, Judge Dufton convicted the officers of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. They face a maximum of three years in prison.
The officers were originally charged with the more serious offence of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but they were acquitted of the charge.
Constable Chan was convicted of an additional charge of common assault for slapping Tsang twice on his face inside the Central Police Station. The offence carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
The seven defendants were police chief inspector Wong Cho-shing, 48, senior inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 29, detective sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 42, and constables Lau Hing-pui, 38, Chan Siu-tan, 31, Kwan Ka-ho, 32, and Wong Wai-ho, 36.