Hong Kong officer off hook after magistrate rules evidence does not add up in forgery trial

Brian Wong

A Hong Kong policeman accused of faking his supervisor’s signature to spend unsupervised time with his lover in prison was found not guilty of forgery on Wednesday, despite the presiding magistrate rejecting his account of events.

Senior Detective Constable Cheung Ka-lok was acquitted of two counts each of using and possessing a false instrument by magistrate Vivian Wong Wing-man of Eastern Court, who said it was only the contradictions in the prosecution’s case that saved Cheung from conviction.

Prosecutors alleged that Cheung, a senior detective at the organised crime and triad bureau before his arrest, had falsified two memos of request while working under senior inspector Ho Wai-man – whose signature he allegedly forged – in Wan Chai’s Regional Anti-Triad Unit.

They said the purpose of the forgery was to gain unmonitored access to a detained woman at Tai Lam Centre for Women on January 11 and 25, 2017. The memos enabled the defendant to meet the prisoner, dubbed P by the court to preserve her anonymity, in private sessions for an unlimited time on each visit.

The Eastern Law Court in Sai Wan Ho. Photo: SCMP

During the trial, Cheung admitted to having an affair with the woman, whom he described as an informant connected to the drug world. He said he had visited her in prison on numerous times in a private capacity, and even brought along her daughter on four such occasions. Those visits took place in a more traditional setting, separated by glass.

While Ho denied authorising the private meetings, Cheung said his former supervisor had knowledge of the visits, as he had signed a pair of subsequent reports detailing the encounters, which he then stored in his office.

In her judgment, Wong said that while the two reports lacked substantial content, it was difficult to understand Ho’s courtroom assertion that he had forgotten receiving and signing them, particularly given that he kept them in a locked drawer to which only he had access.

Hong Kong policeman accused of forging supervisor’s signature to meet woman in jail

She also said that Ho’s testimony that he did not remember being notified of the informant’s existence previously suggested he was unfamiliar with the work of his colleagues.

“It might be that he did not know what his subordinates were doing, or that he did not care too much,” the magistrate said. “For the defendant to get his boss to sign the memos would have been such an easy task. Why would he need to commit forgery?

“The evidence before the court was not enough to establish a case that [Ho] framed the defendant on purpose, but after assessing the evidence, I found the testimony of [Ho] unsafe to rely upon.”

But Wong did not believe Cheung either.

During his testimony, Cheung claimed he had been invited by a colleague, station sergeant Lee Chi-lai, to conduct joint interviews with the prisoner, only for Lee to end up occupied on both occasions, forcing him to make the visits alone.

While Lee corroborated that story in court, Wong found it suspicious that Cheung would make the prison trips solo if his true purpose was to “accompany” Lee, particularly given his relationship with the informant.

“The defendant had claimed that the two visits were for work-related purposes only, but was it really so?” she asked.

Despite voicing those doubts, Wong nonetheless sided with the defendant, ruling the prosecution had failed to establish their case beyond reasonable doubt.

This article Hong Kong officer off hook after magistrate rules evidence does not add up in forgery trial first appeared on South China Morning Post

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