1111 Department of Justice Withdraws Weapon Charge on Girl Who Carried Box-Cutter
In November 2019, the unfortunate death of HKUST student Chow Tsz Lok sparked the “Operation Daybreak” which aimed to obstruct traffic across Hong Kong at dawn in order to facilitate the Three Strikes campaign (work strike, school strike, market strike). A 17 years old female student was arrested in Causeway Bay for having a box-cutter, with the charge being “possession of offensive weapon in public place”. When trial resumed today, the prosecution counsel announced to withdraw the charge. Principal Magistrate Ms Chainrai Bina questioned this decision as previously the counsel objected to bailing due to “seriousness of the charge” only to now withdraw said charge. The counsel also objected to the defendant’s cost application, and further stated that the defendant had used foul language at the police and attempted to escape which both drew suspicion to herself. Nevertheless, the magistrate ruled that the prosecution counsel could not provide evidence for special situation in this case, so the defendant was allowed to claim costs.
According the charge, 17-year-old student Ms Ma was found to carry a box-cutter after a search conducted in alley no. 9 – 15 on Yee Wo Street in Causseway Bay. Court trial was first started in the Eastern Magistrates’ Court on 13 November 2019, at the time which the defendant was still being treated in hospital. Two days later she attended the trial and was given permission to bail.
The prosecution counsel explained that after seeking legal advice, they were unable to undoubtedly prove the defendant had carried the box-cutter in order to harm other people, so they decided to withdraw the charge. Upon hearing the explanation, the magistrate questioned that during the first trial session, the defendant was being treated in the hospital, and the counsel strongly objected to allowing her to bail due to the level of seriousness of the charge only to withdraw the charge entirely due to lack of proof. The counsel replied briefly that while she did carry the box-cutter, the blade was not exposed.
After that, the counsel objected to the cost application, claiming that the defendant’s behaviours had drew enough suspicion. The magistrate questioned this, saying that while the counsel claimed the defendant had positioned herself between protesters, she was not charged for rioting or unlawful assembly, therefore the claim that her behaviours were suspicious did not stand. The counsel then replied that she had used foul language and attempted to run when police wanted to search her belongings. They later found the box-cutter in her right hand, and admitted during interrogation that she did tried to escape.
Lawyer of the defendant Tsui Ho Chuen rebutted that even though there might be eye-witness of the claimed escape, no unfavourable deduction should have been made towards her. He also thought that the prosecution had based the charge solely on police statements but there was never interrogation on said statements, so the situation was different from normal cases a defendant draws suspicion after being deemed not guilty. Besides, he also pointed out that prosecution counsel withdrew the charge during the mention stage because they had not fully considered all situations.
It was eventually ruled that the defendant could reclaim the costs because the prosecution side could not prove the presence of specific situations in the case.
Related event: 2019.11.12 Siege of CUHK, 2019.11.16 Siege of PolyU