A veteran police sergeant has admitted assaulting a junior officer in a drunken row over alcohol when he and nine colleagues broke the law on gathering in public, after they met for dinner in Hong Kong.
David Leung Kwok-wing was among 10 officers fined for meeting at a restaurant in Yuen Long in the early hours of April 19, three weeks after the government banned more than four people gathering in public as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Tuen Mun Court heard on Tuesday.
The prosecution said the 40-year-old sergeant, who has been suspended, was there to bid farewell to policewoman So Ling-nga, 31. So was about to leave the force.
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During the meeting, So offered Leung a glass of wine, but he said he could not have any more, because he was already drunk. The policewoman made fun of his inability to drink alcohol, triggering a fierce dispute that required the others in the group to intervene.
But Leung then charged towards So and grabbed her by her hair for 10 seconds, until he was stopped by three other officers. The policewoman suffered swelling on her head, as well as scratches to her arms.
Leung pleaded guilty to one count of common assault before Magistrate Kelly Shui on Tuesday, having initially denied the accusation under caution and during a police investigation.
In mitigation, defence lawyer Lawrence Ng Yeung-yin said Leung was an “outstanding” officer, who had been officially commended 17 times, and received 20 appreciation letters from America’s law enforcement agencies and local residents during his 22 years on the force.
Ng said Leung had committed the offence on the spur of the moment and would “very likely” lose his job.
“The defendant momentarily lost his temper and performed the foolish act,” Ng said. “He will grieve for his foolishness in his lifetime, as his future is doomed.”
The lawyer urged the court to pass a lenient sentence, such as a fine, adding Leung had agreed to compensate So HK$3,000 for her injuries.
But Magistrate Shui had reservations as to whether the court should let the sergeant go away with a financial penalty, especially when he was also the highest-ranked officer among the group punished for violating the gathering ban during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The court has always placed great emphasis on the need to protect law enforcement officers in their execution of duty. Because of this, the court is at a loss to [sentence] a police officer who lost his temper and went for his colleagues,” Shui told the sergeant.
“Everyone made mistakes … The policewoman had made a mistake, but you have made a more serious mistake by assaulting her.”
Leung was granted bail until sentencing on November 10, pending assessment on his suitability to perform community service.
A police spokesman said the force attached great importance to officers’ conduct and would not tolerate any illegal acts.