Lawyers for woman injured in HK protest accuse police of going ‘behind her back’ to get medical records because they knew she would challenge warrant

13-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Lawyers for the Hong Kong woman left with a serious eye injury after an anti-government protest, have accused police in court of obtaining her medical report “behind her back”, depriving her of her right to privacy, and access to court.

In a legal challenge heard at the High Court on Thursday, Barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC said police had gone on to execute a warrant to access his client’s medical report from a public hospital, despite knowing the woman, known as K, intended to challenge the decision in court.

Pang further complained that his client had still not been given a copy of the warrant, or told what it was about and from which court it was obtained, making it difficult for her to file any legal actions.

“It’s an attempt to make a judicial review academic,” he said.

The unidentified woman has become an icon for the anti-government movement after she was hit in the eye during intense clashes between protesters and police in Tsim Sha Tsui on August 11.

She is in court to ask for the permission to launch what is likely to be the preliminary round of more possible legal challenges to come.

In the present application, she has asked the court to rule that the police’s failure to produce the warrant amounted to unlawfulness, in the hope it could force the police to produce it.

With it, she could then launch a direct challenge to the police’s move to access her medical records without her consent.

She is also requesting from the court a temporary injunction banning police from using her personal information.

While protesters said she was shot by police officers with a beanbag round, the force has urged the public not to jump to any conclusion, and there have been suggestions that she was struck by a projectile fired by a protester.

The police have since applied, and been granted, warrants from the court to access her medical report from Queen Elisabeth Hospital, after they said the woman and her family had not responded to police.

On Thursday, Pang criticised police, saying their actions amounted to “an egregious breach” of his clients’ rights to privacy, and access to justice, under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

He said on behalf of their client, the lawyers had written to the hospital on August 30, a day after police had secured two warrants, one for K’s identity, and another for the medical record. The hospital wrote back on September 2, telling the lawyers to deal with the police directly, and that it did not intend to pass on K’s report.

So on September 2, 3 and 6, the lawyers wrote to the police directly, copying in the Hospital Authority and the Department of Justice. On September 3, Pang said, they specifically informed the police that they would challenge the court warrant.

But by September 4, the report had already been handed to the police, the court heard.

Pang said there was “reasonable inference” to suggest police might have contributed to the hospital’s change of stance.

“If you don’t give it to us, we will come and do a physical search,” Pang believes police could have told the authority.

All along, the barrister said, they did not get a reply from the police, although the court heard a letter from the police was delivered to the lawyers on September 3. Pang said it may have slipped through the cracks.

Pang said K has still not been told why police wanted her medical report.

“Something has gone drastically wrong,” he said.

But barrister Charlotte Draycott SC, for the Secretary for Justice, said a legal action asking for the warrant to be produced was irrelevant as it had already been executed.

There was no point if the woman wanted to go back to the magistrate for any remedy. “It is too late,” she said.

She also said the warrant might contain details of investigations into possible crimes, so it was protected by an immunity under public interest.

She said police would be able to produce the name of the magistrate who issued the warrant if the woman needed it for other legal action.

Days after police obtained the woman’s medical record, Draycott offered to undertake that police would seal it for now, pending further litigation.

Justice Godfrey Lam Wan-ho said he would hand down his decision within the coming two days.


Category: Hong Kong

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