A Hong Kong construction worker has been jailed for 32 months for molesting seven women under the pretext of helping them brush off insects he claimed were crawling on their bodies – a tactic he admitted using to assault more than 70 victims.
Cheung Wai-hung was sentenced at the District Court on Thursday after pleading guilty last month to seven counts of indecent assault, three of theft and one of breaching the terms of his probation, which stemmed from an order for him to undergo psychological counselling imposed after another indecent assault conviction in 2018.
Judge David Dufton called the 30-year-old a “persistent” sexual predator who indulged heavily in pornography and had a “very high risk of reoffending”. A deterrent sentence was necessary to acknowledge the public’s abhorrence towards the crime and the grievance of his victims, he added.
The court heard Cheung assaulted the seven women, aged 16 to 28, at multiple railway stations and a playground between September 24, 2019, and February 23 last year.
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His usual tactic was to tap a victim on the shoulder and claim there was a cockroach, caterpillar or other bug on her clothes, before offering to sweep it off. He would then use the opportunity to rub the victim’s back and, on some occasions, unbuckle their brassieres and grope them.
He also took advantage of three victims’ confusion at the situation to snatch their wallets and bank cards.
Police arrested the construction worker outside his flat in Ma On Shan on February 24 last year. Officers found in his possession some of the stolen money, including a Euro banknote in his wallet and 10 Australian banknotes in his bedroom.
Under caution, the defendant said he had preyed on the women to fulfil his sexual urges, adding: “I have committed too many offences … I could not even control myself.”
He said the assaults gave him a sense of satisfaction, as his victims would sometimes express gratitude for his “assistance” without realising they had been groped from behind.
Cheung also confessed to spending some of the ill-gotten gains on meals and transport, though the court heard he had partially repaid his victims to the tune of HK$8,630 (US$1,112).
Cheung told his probation officer he had assaulted over 70 females using similar methods. The prosecution said he was only sanctioned for seven of those cases as the vast majority of his victims either did not contact police or failed to identify the accused.
Defence counsel Elizabeth Herbert confirmed on Thursday her client had committed the offences while under an 18-month probation order imposed for indecent assault in December 2018. He had previously served another term of probation in 2017 for two counts of the same offence.
Herbert said Cheung had concealed from his probation officer his desire to assault more women, fearing his probation would be replaced by a prison term if he was found out.
At Thursday’s sentencing, Dufton said the defendant’s previous probations had been ineffective because he lacked motivation to turn over a new leaf despite the support shown by his family and fiancée.
“The defendant was clearly not ready to make change,” he added.
Dufton ordered the defendant to serve 2½ years behind bars for indecent assault and theft, plus two months for violating his probation conditions. Cheung is expected to be released in seven months’ time as he had been remanded since his arrest.