HK protests: student accused of hurling bricks at police acquitted of riot charge

04-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A Hong Kong student accused of hurling bricks at police during last year’s October 1 National Day protest has been acquitted of a riot charge, the city’s first such verdict since anti-government demonstrations first rocked the city last June.

Lam Tsz-ho, 19, was found not guilty of rioting after District Judge Sham Siu-man accepted a recording of the events downloaded from instant messaging app Telegram, which cast doubt on the two officers’ testimony the entirety of the prosecution’s case.

The judge also questioned why police failed to obtain surveillance camera footage from a nearby school and said he believed officers had not told the truth when asked to explain a head injury Lam sustained during his arrest.

“The court cannot accept the officers’ account of the events with ease,” Sham said.

Lam threw his head back and let out an audible sigh of relief upon hearing the verdict, while the public gallery erupted into applause.

Lam’s riot trial was the second since mass protests erupted in Hong Kong over the now-withdrawn extradition bill, resulting in more than 8,300 arrests.

According to police figures, at least 595 people have been charged with the offence, which is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.

The District Court heard Lam was arrested for unlawful assembly on October 1, when more than 100 protesters gathered in Wong Tai Sin, near the disciplined services quarters where officers and their families live.

Two officers testified they saw Lam emerge from the protesters’ umbrella formation and hurl bricks at police.

They said Lam was recognisable because he did not wear a helmet, and that they caught him after a brief chase of under 20 seconds, during which time he had their entire focus.

Lam was arrested and sent to Queen Elisabeth Hospital that evening with abrasions on his limbs and a head injury involving a 4cm (1.6-inch) gash that required stitches.

The prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt

Sham Siu-man, district judge

His clothes, which included a black T-shirt, black pants and black shoes, were seized as evidence along with a mask, a pair of goggles and gloves he had been wearing.

But defence counsel Steven Kwan argued it was possible that police had caught the wrong person given how chaotic the scene had been.

Kwan also presented a video downloaded by Lam’s classmate, which showed officers running around a fire engine during the clearance operation, and argued the vehicle would have blocked the officers’ line of sight as they chased his client.

The judge said the officers’ credibility was crucial to the case, given that prosecutors had no photos, videos or other evidence to support their case against a young man of clear record.

Yet one officer said he had no recollection of the vehicle, while the other denied there had been a fire engine.

Sham said the fire engine was a striking sight the officers must have noticed and that its presence negated a crucial element of the prosecution’s case as they claimed they had never lost sight of the man hurling bricks.

He also noted a third officer specifically tasked to gather surveillance camera footage from the scene had obtained none and could not explain why, despite acknowledging there were cameras at the entrance of a nearby school.

Without the officers’ testimonies, Sham said the court was left with a single image of Lam outside the school, wearing black and carrying gear, something which alone could not prove whether he was a participant or simply a passer-by.

“The prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge concluded.


Category: Hong Kong

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