The District Court has sentenced a 26-year-old construction worker to four years in prison for rioting and other related charges, with the judge stressing the need to set a deterrent sentence despite conceding that the defendant’s actions were not very violent.
The court had heard that Shum Hiu-lun had punched a plainclothes officer twice after the policeman was surrounded by protesters outside the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai during a protest on June 26 last year.
In handing down the sentence, judge Anthony Kwok said while the officer wasn’t injured, there were a large number of protesters around at the time, making it highly possible that the situation could have gone out of control had the crowd been provoked by the defendants’ actions.
The fact that Shum was wearing a face mask at the time in an apparent attempt to conceal his identity, the judge said, was another factor leading to a heavier sentence.
Kwok added that the protesters had been participating in an unauthorised rally that completely blocked all entrances to the police compound, severely affecting police operations. The demonstrators, he added, had acted in an extremely provocative and insulting manner.
The judge said even if the demonstrators wanted to air their grievances, they should done it in a lawful way. Instead, he said they had needlessly exceeded the boundaries of the law and had dealt a severe blow to the rule of law.
Kwok stressed the need for his sentence to have a deterrent effect and send a clear signal that the public order cannot be destroyed by illegal actions.
The courts, he said, must defend the rule of law.
He ultimately decided on a sentence of three years and ten months for rioting and five months for common assault, to be served concurrently.
However, Shum was also given two-month prison term for failing to surrender to custody after skipping a pretrial hearing while on bail, meaning the total length of his sentence is four years.
The defendant was earlier acquitted of a separate charge of assault occasioning bodily harm, after the court decided that the attacked officer’s complaint over a burst mouth ulcer was inconsequential.
Kwok told her court he must admit that he faced multiple challenges in adjudicating this case, as the level of violence used was at a 'lower level' than other protest-related offences involving clashes, brick-throwing, and assault.
Many aspects had to be considered and balanced, he said, to come to an appropriate sentence.
Shum was the first person to be jailed for rioting in connection with the months of unrest last year after pleading not guilty, though a number of people have been given similar prison terms after admitting to the same offence.