A Hong Kong court on Wednesday handed a three-month jail term to a now-retired senior police officer who was found guilty of attacking an innocent pedestrian during a 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protest.
Announcing the sentence, a magistrate at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court said the offense of Frankly Chu King-wai, a former commander at the police’s Sha Tin division, was serious enough to warrant time behind bars.
Awarding a jail term, rather than lighter punishment such as community service, is necessary, Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai said, citing the need to send a deterrent message to police officers and to restore public confidence in the force.
The minimum sentence for Chu should have been four months, but she decided to reduce the term by one month in view of the fact that the officer is now retired, has no criminal record, and is unlikely to repeat his offense, Chainrai said.
Another factor that was taken into consideration was that Chu had been under a lot of pressure during and after the Occupy movement, the magistrate said.
Chu was, however, set free on HK$50,000 cash bail as he sought to lodge an appeal against his conviction as well as jail sentence.
He has been ordered to report to police every week during the bail period, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chu, 57, who retired on July 23, 2015, has been accused of attacking a pedestrian with his baton at the height of the Occupy protests in Mong Kok.
In November 2014, Osman Cheng Chung-han filed a petition with the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO), saying he was beaten by Chu on Nov. 26 when he just tried to walk across Nathan Road with a female friend.
The saga dragged on until March 2017, when Chu was charged with “assault occasioning actual bodily harm”.
In his defense, Chu claimed that using the baton was the only effective means because the protesting crowd was in a state of “active aggression” when the incident happened.
The magistrate said although the plaintiff did not suffer any permanent injury after being assaulted by Chu, it could only be considered lucky.
Chu knew the law but broke it, she said.
Peter Pannu, Chu’s lawyer, called the sentencing unnecessary, saying Chu should have been only sentenced to community service. The lawyer said he is confident of winning the appeal.
Outside the court, dozens of Chu’s supporters described his conviction act as “legal violence” and shouted out chants like “Rule of law in Hong Kong is dead” after hearing the sentencing.
On the other side of the road opposite the court, about 10 others held up banners that said “Justice is served”.
Cheng, meanwhile, said what is important is not how long Chu should be put in jail, but rather the message that the police should not abuse their power and use violence.
Citizens should not keep quiet if they are treated unfairly, he said.
Chen said he will not consider seeking civil compensation for the time being, and that he just wants to get over the case that has troubled him for three years.
Joe Chan Cho-kwong, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said in a letter to the association’s members that the court ruling could have a big impact on the morale of frontline police officers.
The Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association also expressed extreme sorrow and disappointment over the jail term for Chu.
Executive Council member and former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she felt sad for Chu but considered the court’s ruling reasonable.
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