Court denies police bid to unlock activists' phones - RTHK
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Court denies police bid to unlock activists' phones

2020-07-10 HKT 12:33
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  • The police had told the court that they would only unlock the devices, extract the data and keep it sealed until a judicial review over this is over. File photo: RTHK
    The police had told the court that they would only unlock the devices, extract the data and keep it sealed until a judicial review over this is over. File photo: RTHK
The High Court has refused the police's application to allow them to unlock the mobile phones of five veteran democrats facing charges in relation to several anti-extradition protests last year.

The phones belong to former legislators Martin Lee, Albert Ho, Sin Chung-kai, Au Nok-hin and Yeung Sum, who are facing charges of organising, taking part in, and inciting others to join three unauthorised anti-government protests last year.

They earlier obtained leave to a judicial review against the court warrants to search the mobile devices.

The court had also granted a temporary order banning officers from looking at content of the phones.

The police then asked for the ban to be lifted, promising that they would only unlock the devices and extract the data without actually looking at it. The information would then be sealed until the conclusion of the judicial review.

The activists' lawyer, senior counsel Robert Pang, opposed the request, saying there's no safeguard in place to make sure officers would not breach the undertaking.

But the lawyer for the police said it may take months to complete the data extraction process, and it's in the interest of the public and in line with the administration of justice that this could be done with no further delay.

The lawyer added it's regrettable that the five defendants do not trust the police, but said the commissioner will stand by his promises made solemnly to the court.

Justice Russell Coleman said since the judicial review will be heard on 13 August, there won't be any prolonged delay to the police's investigation either way, so he decided to continue with the ban.

He also said his ruling was a "wider balancing exercise" and does not imply that he does not trust the police.