A primary schoolteacher has been jailed for nine weeks for kicking a police officer during last year’s anti-government protests, with the sentence handed down by the same magistrate who sparked a controversy by sending him to a psychiatric hospital three months ago.
Yeung Pok-man will not serve his sentence immediately, however, after being granted a temporary release pending an appeal.
Fanling Court on Tuesday heard that Yeung, the first schoolteacher to be convicted over the demonstrations sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill in June 2019, had been dismissed by his school.
The 29-year-old was convicted in June of assaulting a police officer on November 11, during a citywide strike by anti-government protesters. He was accused of slowing traffic at an elevated roundabout on So Kwun Po Road in Sheung Shui as part of a demonstration that morning.
The teacher was said to have resisted officers after being told to leave his car, kicking Sergeant Chung Wang-yip in the abdomen. He denied the assault and said he had been battered by police, who he claimed nearly threw him off the bridge after subduing him.
On June 12, Magistrate Debbie Ng Chung-yee found Yeung guilty after ruling his statements were not believable. She suggested the teacher could have fabricated the story due to a personality disorder and may have been mentally unfit to continue teaching.
The judiciary has received various complaints about Ng’s conduct during the trial, which saw the magistrate remand Yeung to the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre to see whether any underlying mental disabilities made him lie in court. Yeung was granted bail by the High Court six days later.
A post on the judiciary’s website said the complaints largely argued that the magistrate “had acted in a biased manner, including analysis of evidence not beyond reasonable doubt, comments/rulings based on subjective views, and preconceived stance on sentence, etc”.
The judiciary has yet to reply to the allegations, citing ongoing proceedings.
Three pre-sentencing reports offered in court on Tuesday, including two compiled by psychiatrists, concluded Yeung did not suffer from any mental illnesses, though his mother had been battling depression for more than a decade.
Yeung’s father, according to the reports, suffered from chronic diabetes and was diagnosed with liver cancer two years ago. Yeung has been the family’s breadwinner since then.
Although the teacher was sacked by his school following the incident, his principal praised the former employee, describing him as “responsible, passionate and devoted wholeheartedly to teaching”, Yeung’s lawyer Joe Chan Wai-yin said in mitigation.
Chan urged the magistrate to pass a non-custodial sentence, stressing the assault was out-of-character and the officer had suffered no injury.
Ng said that while she was “very sympathetic” towards Yeung’s parents, she saw no trace of remorse in the defendant, pointing out he failed to assist psychiatrists in making a complete diagnosis by explaining his “delusional thinking” in regard to the alleged assault by police.
“One [psychiatrist] report showed that the defendant did not tell doctors why he had such delusional thinking that [he believed] police attempted to throw him off a bridge” Ng said. “The defendant did not exhibit a trace of reflection or remorse in the three reports.”
Following sentencing, Yeung’s defence counsel said outside the court that they would consider lodging an appeal against his conviction and sentence.
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