IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
MAGISTRACY APPEAL No. 682 of 1999
(On appeal from FLCC 784 of 1997)
Coram: The Honourable Mr Justice PANG in Court
Date of hearing: 12 October 1999
Date of judgment: 12 October 1999
1. On 21 May 1997 the appellant, CHANG Sau-wai, pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of 1.34 grammes of heroin hydrochloride forwhich she was placed on open probation by the learned magistrate for 24 months. However, by October, 1997 she was in breach of theconditions of the probation order and she was brought before another magistrate sitting at the Fanling Magistracy for sentence. On19 May 1999 the learned magistrate set aside the Probation Order and imposed a prison term of 11 months.
2. One of the reasons stated by the learned magistrate for imposing a sentence which is a departure from the guideline of six to ninemonths is that he wished to protect the right of an unborn child, taking note that the appellant was pregnant at the time and isexpecting in December of this year. The magistrate was concerned with the unsuccessful history of drug addiction treatment whichthe appellant had received in the past. He imposed the 11-month term because had the appellant served a short prison term which iswithin the guideline for the quantity of drugs specified in the charge, she might well have resorted to drugs again before she gavebirth to the child. In his eagerness to protect the child, the learned magistrate imposed a term which ensured that the baby wouldbe born during her period of incarceration.
3. I appreciate his concern over the well-being of the child, but obviously the learned magistrate had overlooked a simpler solutionto what he perceived as a human rights problem. He could have imposed a sentence within the guidelines of six to nine months andupon release of the appellant from prison, he could then refer the matter for following up action by the Director of Social Welfare.There being an obvious practical alternative, the learned magistrate’s departure from the sentencing guidelines is not justifiedby his reasons given.
4. For the reasons given, I would allow this appeal to the extent that her present 11-month prison term is substituted by one of fourmonths’ imprisonment. I would further request that upon the appellant’s release from prison, the Director of Social Welfare be requestedto look into this matter for following up action and possible assistance to this appellant.
Miss Winsome CHAN, Senior Government Counsel, for HKSAR
Miss Corinne Remedios, instructed by DLA, for Appellant