Teen first to be convicted for carrying laser pen

Top News | Stella Wong 8 Nov 2019

A 16-year-old student has been convicted of two counts of possession of offensive weapons after carrying a laser pen to a protest site - the first such conviction involving the pointers.

Acting Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak amended the teenager's charge from "possession of instrument fit for unlawful purposes" to "possession of offensive weapon with intent" - drawing a higher penalty, despite objection from the defense.

The boy was remanded in custody pending sentence on November 25. He faces imprisonment of not more than three years, or detention in a detention center, a training center or a rehabilitation center. The maximum penalty of the original charge is a fine of HK$5,000 or two years in jail.

The teen has been in custody since his arrest on September 21 at the age of 15, when he was found to be carrying a laser pen, a modified umbrella and a hiking cane near the MTR Tuen Mun station.

He pleaded not guilty to possession of offensive weapon in public place for the modified umbrella and possession of instrument fit for unlawful purposes for the laser pen.

Before handing down the verdict at the Juvenile Court of the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts, So yesterday amended the charge with reference to Article 27 of the Magistrates Ordinance, which states that an adjudicating magistrate shall "amend the charge if it appears that there is a defect in the charge, or a variance between the charge and the evidence."

Barrister Peter Chiu Ka-ming, representing the teen, opposed the amendment, saying it would be unfair as the defense was made against the original charge. But So believed this would not create irreparable injustice. The teen pleaded not guilty to the new charge.

In his verdict, So said although a laser pointer is not a weapon in nature, expert witnesses said they can hurt the eyes and cause slight skin burns.

"If he intended to protest peacefully, there was no need for him to bring the laser pen or other gear," So said. "[The laser pointer] was meant to harm the eyes of police officers, causing them discomfort."

So said the umbrella was meant to attack others, including police, while the boy could hide behind it.

Chiu submitted seven mitigation letters, including from retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, pro-democracy lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Roy Kwong Chun-yu.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, also a solicitor, said he is worried that police will abuse this ruling.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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