A mainland woman who broke rules by taking photos last month in a Hong Kong courtroom during a trial was on Monday handed a seven-day jail term.
Tang Lin-ling, 35, was found guilty of criminal contempt of court, according to the ruling handed down by High Court Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
As such, the judge sentenced Tang to a week in prison and also ordered her to pay HK$197,260 in legal costs.
It marked the first punishment of its kind to a defendant under the Summary Offences Ordinance, which states that any person who takes or attempts to take a photograph inside the court or publish any of those photographs can be fined up to HK$2,000. Under common law, a person who takes a photograph in court could also be liable for contempt of court.
While noting there was no previous case that could be used as reference or any guideline ruling, Chan said courtroom photography has become a potential concern, especially when some criminal cases have been involved, and the court is obliged to protect jurors and witnesses from any unnecessary interference.
The law-breaking act by Tang took place on May 23 when Chan was trying a contempt of court case in connection with the Mong Kok clashes of February 2016.
As the mainland woman failed to hand in HK$50,000 bail money, she was arrested on May 29 and had been detained since.
While she claimed that she was innocent, police found on her phone three pictures capturing the faces of some of the respondents and faces of the barristers in the Mong Kok case.
In his ruling, Chan pointed out that since she uploaded two of the three pictures onto WeChat, a hugely popular instant messaging service in China, there was a risk that they might fall into the wrong hands.
The judge added that even though Tang might just have tried to show off to her friends that she had been in a Hong Kong court, her action constituted contempt of court.
Chan agreed that Tang, who only came to the Hong Kong court to learn, did not intend to pervert the course of justice, and had apologized to the court.
The judge dismissed Tang’s request for compensation for what she claimed was her illegal detention, reminding her that the place she was in is not the mainland.
The photos which the she took in the courtroom have proved very expensive for her, Chan pointed out to Tang, advising her to be wise the next time.
Tang, who entered Hong Kong with a visit visa that has now expired, was deported back to the mainland Monday night after her days of detention were counted for the jail sentence given to her.
– Contact us at [email protected]