Baton-swinging cop hit with three months' jail

Retired police superintendent Frankly Chu has been sentenced to three months in prison for hitting a pedestrian with a baton during the 2014 Occupy movement in Mong Kok.

Phoebe Ng

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Retired police superintendent Frankly Chu has been sentenced to three months in prison for hitting a pedestrian with a baton during the 2014 Occupy movement in Mong Kok.

But he was immediately released on bail of HK$50,000 pending an appeal on grounds of "manifestly excessive" punishment after having spent 15 days - including Christmas, his 58th birthday and New Year's - in custody while awaiting sentence.

He will also argue that Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai made legal errors, including her having considered internal police guidelines, which have no legal status, along with her failure to consider Chu's state of mind during the incident.

Chainrai had told a courtroom packed with more than 50 relatives, former colleagues and supporters of Chu that a "deterrent sentence" was necessary to prevent other police officers from committing similar offenses and restoring public confidence.

Chu, dressed in a suit and blue tie, was convicted on December 18 of one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm to Osman Cheng Chung-han on November 26, 2014 - the 60th day of the Occupy movement.

Chu was not arrested until March 27 last year - more than 800 days following the incident and after he had retired from the force.

Explaining her sentence, Chainrai said: "The assault is too serious to warrant a suspended sentence. It is an aggravating factor for a serving officer to commit an offense during his duty." She added the victim, Cheng, 28, had done nothing to justify the attack.

"Cheng was unarmed and his gesture cannot be viewed as threatening as shown by video evidence," the magistrate said, while accepting the attack was neither premeditated or the most serious of its kind.

"A baton is not as lethal as a knife or a chopper, but it can still cause serious injuries," she said.

Chainrai said all the factors pointed toward an "appropriate" jail term of four months, but she knocked off a month given the "great stress" Chu was under during the Occupy protests and the long time lapse.

The sentence, originally set on December 29, had been delayed until yesterday as Chu's counsel, Peter Pannu, handed 40 mitigation letters, from supporters who included lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and former police commissioners Tang King-shing and Andy Tsang Wai-hung.

Current commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung also wrote to commend Chu for his contribution to the force.

"All spoke very highly of him, noting his long and distinguished achievement as a police officer," Chainrai acknowledged.

But in convicting Chu, Chainrai said the victim was "complying with a police order and was walking steadily."

She added: "There was no unruly crowd and no necessity for Chu to protect himself and his colleagues."

Chu had insisted he used only minimal force to restore public order.

The attack left the victim limping for a week and unable to move his neck to the right for a month.

phoebe.ng@singtaonewscorp.com