A 13-year-old boy who admitted assaulting and taking nude pictures of an 11-year-old girl in a bid to extort money from her has been sentenced to a juvenile home in Hong Kong.
The teen was the first to be left with a criminal record among the 10 members of a youth gang in Tai Po, aged 10 to 14, who were charged over the affair.
The six boys and four girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were charged with 16 counts over seven incidents that took place between late February and March 11, during which the victim received multiple injuries that left her in hospital for a month.
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Fanling Court heard that on six of those occasions, the victim was blackmailed into giving money to the gang, who attacked her and took photos of her naked after she turned down their requests.
In the final incident on March 11, the victim agreed to lend money to one of the boys but was splashed with bubble milk tea and slapped in the face in return.
The 10 were arrested over the span of the next three days. The girl was found with scars on her forehead, neck and left wrist, as well as bruises or scratches on her right shoulder, waist and hands. She was discharged from hospital on April 12.
Two of the boys and two of the girls were either bound over or given a care or protection order after pleading guilty, allowing them to keep their criminal records clear.
The 13-year-old boy pleaded guilty to five counts of blackmail, three counts of common assault, and one count each of wounding, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and making child pornography.
Prosecutors said the teen played a significant role in the violence against the victim, taking part in all but the last incidents. He was the first in the gang to blackmail the girl on an unspecified date in late February, requesting she pay HK$20,000 (US$2,580) as reward for helping her settle a dispute.
Upon hearing the girl’s refusal, the teen and two other co-defendants took her to the rooftop of Jade Plaza, where he slashed one of her forearms with a cutter and burned tobacco from a broken-up cigarette on the wounds.
The girl was twice assaulted by the teen and other members of the gang on March 10. The gang, including the teen, then took her to a toilet inside Fu Heng shopping centre, where they said they would stop the beating if she allowed them to take nude photos of her.
Although the girl went ahead with it, she was attacked twice the next day, with the teen hitting her shoulder and leg with a pole and pouring a soft drink over her body.
On Monday, defence lawyers said the teen committed the offences during a period of depression caused by the death of a great aunt, whom he loved deeply. They asked the court to put him on probation so he could continue his studies at a boarding school.
But Principal Magistrate Don So Man-lung accepted the recommendation of the probation officer and sentenced the teen to Tuen Mun Children and Juvenile Home, which provides residential training and rehabilitation programmes for male offenders aged 10 to 15. He will serve one to three years at the facility depending on his behaviour.
The remaining five teenagers who have yet to enter a plea will appear in court on October 6.