Two students accused of taping protest posters to government property were acquitted on Tuesday, after a court found the police officer who arrested them had not followed proper procedure in doing so.
Special Magistrate Lau Suk-han of West Kowloon Magistracy also attributed the acquittal to the “fickle” testimony of Senior Constable Lau Yick-pang, who she said had given inconsistent accounts of the event on August 5, a day of citywide strike action.
Lau Yick-pang told the court he had witnessed the students, Ho Chi-ching and Kwok Hiu-nam, posting three placards calling for people to join the strike on a bridge railing on Tsing Yi Island that evening.
The officer said the duo had then admitted their wrongdoings upon arrest. However, under cross-examination, he conceded he had failed to note down their confessions in accordance with Police General Orders.
Announcing her verdict, the magistrate said she found the officer’s evidence unreliable, pointing out the lack of proof that the purported confessions had been made by the students.
“The admission was never recorded in writing in the officer’s notebook. In court, the officer explained he failed to mention it,” Lau Suk-han said.
The magistrate also cast doubt as to whether the officer had actually observed the incident unfold within the “one to two seconds” it took him to drive by the scene in a police vehicle, particularly after he gave different versions of the incident at trial.
She found the students not guilty of unauthorised display of posters on government land, a municipal offence with a maximum penalty of a HK$10,000 fine.
“I cannot be sure which version [of the incident] is the prosecution’s case,” she added.
The two students, who were not required to appear in court, were granted legal costs of HK$30,000.