Police perverting the course of public justice: claim to charge on ground of violation of “ban on public gatherings” by grouping youngsters into groups of four or more

On April 22, 2020, a reporter from Free HK Media, an online media outlet, was stopped by the police on the grounds of a “ban on public gatherings” when he and a passer-by were interviewed in Tseung Kwan O. During this, a police officer allegedly said to his colleague, “It’d be enough (to form a group of four or above) if you pull one more over”.

In the morning, “The Stand News” asked the Police Public Relations Bureau how many people were stopped, whether the “ban on public gatherings” was violated, whether the police officers were suspected of obstructing justice, whether the incident would be investigated, the number of people charged under the “ban on public gatherings” last night, and the criteria of the “ban on public gatherings”.

The police replied that an “anti-crime patrol” was conducted at Sheung Tak Estate car park, Tseung Kwan O, on the night of 22nd April, during which 14 civilians were searched and all were allowed to leave after the search. No fixed penalty tickets were issued in the interim. The police also said that anyone who feels they have been treated unreasonably in the handling of an incident can lodge a complaint with the CAPO, “which will be dealt with fairly and impartially in accordance with established procedures”.

On the evening of 22nd April, seven months after the death of Chan Yin-lam, a student of HKDI, some netizens initiated a memorial service and media covered the event in Tiu King Ling and Tseung Kwan O. Some Tseung Kwan O residents chanted slogans such as “Five demands, not one less” and “Free Hong Kong, revolution of our times” at around 22:00. A reporter from Free HK Media was stopped by police when they went to the Sheung Tak car park in Tseung Kwan O to cover a story. According to Free HK Media’s video footage, at least two people were being check at the time, standing off to the side.

During the stop, a police officer shouted, “It’s the ban on public gatherings, right?” and said, “it’d be enough if you pull one more person over here (to make it a gathering of more than four, so the whole group will be fined)”. Then the person suspected to be his colleague responded “…not a good thing to do is it?”, after which, the officer who was speaking loudly shouted at the youngsters who was stopped: “If you have to explain, explain to the court.”

Free HK Media, in response to an inquiry from The Stand News, said that as far as the reporter could see at the time, the interception was on two separate sides, with eight to nine people on one side and two on the other. Subsequently, all were released.

Free HK Media said it would not complain about the incident for the time being, but reserved the right to pursue it in the future. It was also pointed out that the police officers at the time had identifiable operational call sign displayed, but the reporter failed to record them.

Perverting the course of public justice is an indictable common law offence in Hong Kong. The offence consists of an act, a series of acts, or conduct which has the tendency and is intended to pervert the course of justice. (Halsbury’s Laws of England 4th Ed. Reissue, Vol. 11(1), para. 315).

– Making false allegations
– Providing false statements to investigators
– Fabricating or disposing of evidence

In Sin Kam Wah v HKSAR (2005) 8 HKCFAR 192, the Court of Final Appeal laid down five ingredients to the offence of misconduct in public office. It is committed where:

  1. a public official
  2. in the course of or in relation to his public office
  3. willfully misconducts himself, by act or omission, for example, by willfully neglecting or failing to perform his duty
  4. without reasonable excuse or justification
  5. where such misconduct was serious, not trivial, having regard to the responsibilities of the office and the office-holder, the importance of the public objects which they serve and the nature and extent of the departure from those responsibilities.

Free HK Media (video)

Apple Daily (Article)

The Stand News (Article)