The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking a review of last Monday's controversial sentence of a woman convicted for the third time of assaulting a police officer.
Amina Bokhary, niece of Court of Final Appeal Judge Mr Justice Bokhary, was spared a custodial sentence. Instead she was fined HK$8000. Her driving privileges were suspended for one year and she was directed to undergo treatment for alcoholism.
The DOJ Wednesday called the sentence manifestly inadequate or wrong in principle in declaring it would seek a review.
The leniency of the sentence touched off a wave of anger with tens of thousands of ordinary citizens signing up for a Facebook group denouncing the verdict, joining with the Police Department, which also declared the sentence too lenient.
The 33-year-old woman slapped a police officer who responded to the scene when Bokhary drove her car into a bus on January 27. Bokhary pleaded guilty to careless driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to take a breathalyzer test.
In passing sentence, Magistrate Anthony Yuen praised Bokhary as a woman "of good background from a well-off family with a good education."
The majority of citizens' complaints over the sentencing denounced the judiciary for its lenient treatment of the upper-class and the privileges granted to the wealthy.
Over 40 police officers filed complaints. The court's leniency would have a negative affect on the community and affect the work of policemen in future, the Chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors Association Tony Liu Kit-ming said Tuesday.
"Assaulting a police officer is a serious crime and usually the defendant receives imprisonment," said Tang Kam-moon, director of the Department of Crime and Security, Hong Kong Police Force, at a Wednesday press conference.
There were 377 police officer assault cases in 2009. Among those 131 were treated as personal injury crimes liable to two years' imprisonment. The other 246 cases were charged under Police General Orders and carry HK$5000 fines and six-months' imprisonment, according to Tang.
The police charged the judge's niece with the lesser crime, which roused questions from reporters. Tang responded that the department did not seek advice from the DOJ when filing the charge.
Tang adds that among the 246 police officer assaulting charges in 2009, over 50 percent of the defendants received immediate custodial sentences, citing the Court's concern over this type of crime. The director appealed to the public to be cooperative with police officers.
The Facebook group founded to denounce the sentence saw its membership swell from around 9,000 Monday to 42,928 Wednesday afternoon.
The review appeal by the DoJ was applied under the s.104 of the Magistrates Ordinance, according to which the magistrate or both parties may review the decision within 14 days. The presiding judge will allow both sides to make submissions while Magistrate Anthony Yuen considers whether he should revise the penalty. If Yuan confirms the initial penalty, the Department of Justice may appeal to the high court directly, according to DOJ.