[Hong Kong Spotlight] Reply from the Department of Justice

On 9th October 2020, Michael Wong Kin Bong, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (Office of Director of Public Prosecutions) replied to WDA’s letter dated 4th September, on behalf of the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The main points are as follows.

  • DoJ acknowledged the public’s concerns on the case. Whenever DoJ considers prosecutions on every case, including this case, prosecutors must make objective and professional analysis based on the presented evidence and suitable legislation, and follow Prosecution Code (The Code). Unless there is adequate evidence which can be accepted by the courts, demonstrating a reasonable prospect of conviction and serving the public interest, prosecutors shall not start the prosecution.
  • Section 5 of the Code clearly states considerations and tests prosecutors should take when they make decisions.

5.4 There must be legally sufficient evidence to support a prosecution; that is, evidence that is admissible and reliable and, together with any reasonable inferences able to be drawn from it, likely to prove the offence.

5.5 The test is whether the evidence demonstrates a reasonable prospect of conviction. To satisfy that test, a prosecutor must make prospective judgements about matters such as:

  1. the evidence available;
  2. any challenge that may be made to the admissibility and/or reliability of the evidence;
  3. the availability, competence and credibility of witnesses, and their likely assessment by the court;
  4. any contrary evidence that may reasonably be anticipated;
  5. likely defences to be raised;
  6. the way in which a reasonable tribunal of fact, properly instructed as to the law, will be likely to act on all of the evidence and arguments in the case.

5.6 A prosecutor will need to consider in relation to witnesses: the reliability of memory; any suggestion of exaggeration; any association with the accused (favourable or unfavourable); any motive not to tell the whole truth; availability; psychological or other personal characteristics (including in the case of a child or incapacitated witness); vulnerability to attack by the defence.

5.7 The public interest is not served by proceeding with cases that do not satisfy this test. The resources required to prosecute must be responsibly applied only to proceedings that will be fair and that are likely to be effective.

  • When DoJ examined and considered relevant evidence of this case, it was believed that all evidence failed to support a reasonable prospect of conviction. Thus, DoJ decided not to start any prosecution. If law enforcement agencies have grounds, such as finding new evidence, to seek legal advice, DoJ will follow up.

Last week, three cases of animal cruelty were reported in three days. On 14th October, an old man was arrested in Yuen Long for ripping out organs from a dog carcass for consumption. On 16th October, a puppy was abandoned in a rubbish bin with signs of abuse. Meanwhile, a pigeon was tortured in Tsing Yi. The police received 150 reports of animal abuse in the first half of this year, of which DoJ only made prosecutions on 5 cases. Hong Kong is a metropolitan city, but its animal welfare standard is as underdeveloped as a third-world country. 

WDA is disappointed with DoJ’s response. Given the solid evidence, it is difficult to understand DoJ’s claim that ‘all evidence failed to support a reasonable prospect of conviction’. WDA firmly believes that it is time to amend the current regulations and set up an all-rounded animal protection law, so as to prevent such tragedies from happening again.