Hong Kong man with mental disability walks free after successful appeal of weapons possession sentence

Jasmine Siu
·2-min read

A local cleaner with a mental disability walked free from a Hong Kong court on Wednesday after winning an appeal against his eight-month jail term for possession of a suspected petrol bomb and a laser pen in January.

The High Court on Wednesday allowed Lee Kai-fat’s appeal against his sentence and released the cleaner by replacing his original term with the 4½ months he had already served in custody.

The 32-year-old had pleaded guilty in June to one count of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place, admitting that he was carrying a canister of liquefied petroleum gas, a bottle of drain cleaner and a laser pen when police intercepted him at a Light Rail station in Tuen Mun on January 22.

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His case had sparked a controversy when sentencing magistrate Kathie Cheung Kit-yee observed that his mild mental disability was not a mitigating factor.

The High Court on Wednesday disagreed with Tuen Mun Court’s decision that Lee Kai-fat’s mental handicap was not a mitigating factor. Photo: Warton Li
The High Court on Wednesday disagreed with Tuen Mun Court’s decision that Lee Kai-fat’s mental handicap was not a mitigating factor. Photo: Warton Li

Tuen Mun Court heard the man’s intellectual capacity was akin to that of an 11-year-old, with his defence lawyers arguing he had no intention to harm people.

Pre-sentencing reports revealed that Lee had wanted to imitate protesters so he made a so-called bomb by tying the cylinders together.

He was also said to have bought the laser device to mimic stargazing, after finding it could emit beautiful lights when directed at the sky.

But Cheung found there was a need to protect the public when the items could cause a degree of harm, and imposed a starting point for sentencing of 12 months before discounting a third of that to credit his timely guilty plea.

On appeal, Lee’s counsel, Linda Wong Shui-hung, argued that Cheung had erred in not giving any weight to her client’s mental condition, and had imposed a manifestly excessive jail term.

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Wong said Lee’s disability brought extra challenges to his remand, noting he was bullied while in custody.

Acting senior public prosecutor Glen Kong Pak-lim countered that the most important consideration was to safeguard the public.

But Mr Justice Alex Lee Wan-tang agreed that Lee’s case was different and reduced his sentence.

His full reasons will be handed down later.

Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, who accompanied Lee to court, said it was “most exciting news” that the judge had overturned the lower court’s decision in recognising a mental disability in mitigation.

Possession of an offensive weapon in a public place is punishable by three years in prison.

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