Calls to remove 'biased' magistrate from unrest-related cases

Top News | Amy Nip and Wallis Wang 18 Aug 2020

Wallis Wang

An Eastern Court magistrate has been accused of being biased for ruling in favor of people charged in unrest cases, and police supporters have written letters to the judiciary urging him to be barred from such cases.

Magistrate Stanley Ho Chun-yiu has been accused by the police supporters of making comments critical of police witnesses and sympathetic to unrest defendants.

A lawyer also wrote a letter, on an anonymous basis, to Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, complaining of what he described as an "overwhelming number of acquittals" by Ho.

The letter shared on pro-establishment social media pages referred to the comments made by Ho when he acquitted Eastern District councilor Jocelyn Chau Hui-yan and her assistant, Lao Chak-kin, of police assault last week.

Ho criticized two police officers for giving testimony that was contradictory to video evidence, and for using "a lie to cover up another lie."

The netizens were unhappy that Ho did not accept the police testimony that Chau refused to leave North Point on August 11 last year, despite repeated warnings, and ended pushing an officer.

The complainants also accused Ho of "repeatedly making inappropriate remarks with obvious political tendentiousness."

In June this year, Ho said the behavior of a protester who threw two sacks toward police was "not too violent," and that the defendant's confession "should be encouraged."

In another court hearing during which a 15-year-old protester pleaded guilty to hurling petrol bombs at the Chai Wan Police Married Quarters last November, Ho said "the only time that someone could be hurt was when the accused was arrested." The letter was sent to the judiciary and copied to the Department of Justice and the national security department of the police.

Separately, a letter was sent to the chief justice complaining about Ho.

A copy of the letter which The Standard obtained, urged Ma to take immediate action "before more harm is done to the trust of the public on the quality of judicial officers." Signed by "a practicing lawyer," the letter pointed to an "overwhelming number of acquittals" by Ho concerning defendants charged with public order offences.

No number was given in the letter.

"Either it is an extraordinary coincidence that Mr Ho was assigned cases the evidence for which all happened to be extremely weak, or that we are seeing an unusual pattern here, which can only be explained by the obvious reason," it said.

Police officers appearing in the cases heard by Ho all seemed to be either unreliable or dishonest witnesses, it added. As for defendants who pleaded guilty, Ho sought to downplay the seriousness of their offenses, it said.

"Given that a single remark of a district court judge a few months before - in a case in which the defendant was actually sentenced to a long period of imprisonment - was deemed to be enough cause for ensuring that the learned judge should not deal with cases concerning a similar political context for the time being, I believe that Mr Ho's case clearly warrants the same treatment," the letter said.

It was referring to District Court judge Kwok Wai-kin, who was barred from adjudicating criminal proceedings involving protesters at the unrest in April after he expressed sympathy with a pro-government tour guide who stabbed three people in front of a Lennon wall.

Kwok said Tony Hung Chun, 51, "showed noble qualities."

Last month, the Judiciary said it had recently received a large number of similar complaints against Ho or officers about their rulings.

It said it will not handle any complaints against judicial decisions, and appealed to the public that the only proper way to deal with dissatisfied judicial decisions is to appeal in court.

It added that the secretariat for complaints against judicial conduct could upload the main points of the complaint and the relevant response to the judiciary's website instead of responding to each complainant individually.

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