HK teen who admitted throwing petrol bombs sent to detention centre, after Court of Appeal decides initial punishment wasn’t tough enough

18-Sep-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A Hong Kong teenager previously given probation for hurling petrol bombs was sent to a detention centre by the Court of Appeal on Thursday, after it earlier agreed with prosecutors that his original sentence was “manifestly inadequate”.

The case was reviewed after Magistrate Kelly Shui, who presided over the boy’s case, became one of three judicial officers to receive numerous complaints over her conduct.

Originally, the 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given 18 months’ probation, with the first half to be spent at a juvenile facility.

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But the court increased the punishment after allowing the review earlier this month.

The boy previously pleaded guilty to charges of arson and possessing items with intent to destroy or damage property, admitting he hurled three petrol bombs on Fung Cheung Road in Yuen Long during the early hours of January 8 to express discontent with the government and test his home-made explosives.

His new sentence was in line with recommendations from the correctional services, which found him suitable for a detention, training or rehabilitation centre.

Defence counsel Dick Lee Kwok-fu said his client would prefer a detention centre, as he wished to complete his sentence as soon as possible and return to his school, which had reserved a place for him.

Detention centres are an alternative to prison, with an emphasis on hard physical labour and discipline, for male offenders aged between 14 and 24.

Those under 20 serve a minimum term of one month, with the maximum capped at six months.

The precise period of detention is decided by the commissioner of correctional services, based on the defendant’s conduct in the facility.

Some offenders may also be placed under supervision for up to one year upon their release.

Critics of the original trial complained probation was too lenient, and questioned Shui’s impartiality after she called the defendant an “excellent kid” during her sentencing in May.

Less than two months later, the judiciary introduced a new webpage in response to a large number of complaints targeting the same judges or judicial officers.

Shui was one of three officers to collectively receive thousands of complaints over their conduct in cases, and the webpage was used by the judiciary to issue responses publicly.

In an application for review, prosecutors demanded a custodial sentence, arguing that Shui had put too much weight on the defendant’s age and need for rehabilitation, and not enough on the gravity of the offences, social expectations and the need for deterrence.

Lee countered that Shui was an experienced magistrate who was right to prioritise the welfare of juveniles when there were no sentencing guidelines in such cases, giving her the flexibility to consider alternatives.

But the court agreed that Shui had erred in principle and found custodial sentence suitable in the present case, reserving full reasons to be handed down at a later date.

The three judges are Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, the chief judge of the High Court, and justices Derek Pang Wai-cheong and Anthea Pang Po-kam.


Category: Hong Kong

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