No bias in 'fine kid' remark

Top News | Michael Shum 23 Oct 2020

It was inappropriate for a magistrate to call a petrol bomb-throwing, 15-year-old youth a "fine kid," but she did not show political bias, chief magistrate Victor So Wai-tak found.

So looked into complaints against Tuen Mun magistrate Kelly Shui, who put the teenager on probation for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to arson and possessing materials with intent to damage property.

He was later sent to a detention center after the Department of Justice won a review at the Court of Appeal on the grounds the sentence was wrong in principle and inadequate.

People had complained about Shui, accusing her of bias after she referred to the youth as a "fine kid full of passion."

But the judiciary says that "after the chief magistrate examined the case in depth he is of the view complaints against the judicial conduct of the magistrateare not substantiated." And Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li agreed.

So believed Shui was pointing out the court derived no pleasure in dealing with young offenders with good backgrounds and said: "What the magistrate said did not directly or indirectly encourage any form of violence or criminal conduct."

The chief magistrate added that while the Court of Appeal said Shui's remark about "a fine kid" was "questionable," it was "insufficient to support a conclusion Shui had apparent bias."

So also said the department did not rely on bias as a reason for a review, nor did the Court of Appeal find that the remarks amounted to bias.

"Therefore, even though Shui's remark about the defendant is not an appropriate one and she erred in attaching inappropriate weight to the mitigating factors, Shui had not expressed any view that indicates a political inclination or gives rise to a perception of apparent bias."

But pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said judicial officers might be condoning one another after complaints against a magistrate were found to be unsubstantiated once again.

He was referring to a decision that saw complaints against Eastern Magistrates' Court's Stanley Ho Chun-yiu not substantiated.

"I think the judiciary should deal with complaints that concern the public in a more careful, fair and open manner," Ho said.

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