DCCC930 & 940/2011



CRIMINAL CASE NOS. 930 AND 940 OF 2011 (Consolidated)


Knierim Ethan Remiel (D1)

Before: Deputy District Judge Woodcock

Date: 29 November 2011 at 10.31 am

Present: Ms Winsome Chan, SPP of the Department of Justice, for HKSAR
Ms Susan Liang, of Messrs Yip, Tse & Tang, assigned by the Director of Legal Aid, for the 1st Defendant

Offence: (1) Burglary (入屋犯法罪)
(2) Criminal Damage (刑事損壞)
(3) Failing to surrender to custody without reasonable cause (無合理因由而沒有按照法庭的指定歸押)


Reasons for Sentence


1. You have pleaded guilty weeks ago before me to one count of burglary with the 2nd defendant. The 2nd defendant I have ultimatelysent to a detention centre. You were a couple of years younger than the 2nd defendant. At the time of the offence you were only just17. And at 17 years old you were pretty much on your own, hanging out in the streets of Hong Kong, in dubious places, which wouldlead you to meet dubious people. You were introduced to drugs, which ultimately, if you are living under those circumstances, itwill lead to crime. And you did, under the influence of drugs, drink, excitement, commit this burglary. It was a non-domestic burglary.It was office premises. You took items of value, but you were arrested before you could leave. And luckily that company sufferedno financial loss.

2. It is pretty clear from all the reports that as soon as your mother left Hong Kong you ran away from home on numerous occasions,were in great conflict with your father, so much so that on the first occasion I was told that he would not have you home. Whatis extraordinary in this case is that the circumstances are not unusual. What is extraordinary is that you are not a Hong Kong Chinese,you are not a resident, you are not local, you do not read, write, speak Chinese. You are an American by nationality; you were bornin America. You came here in 2004.

3. Before you came to Hong Kong you were diagnosed at a children’s hospital and found to have attention deficit disorder, ADD, whichwould of course mean that your school studies would be affected. Now, in Hong Kong that would have been difficult to deal with. Most Hong Kong schools, be they local or international, are not equipped to deal with ADD. ADD is something that can be dealt withvery easily. You just have to modify the education. It is pretty obvious that it became a problem because I see from the reportsthat from 2008 you were studying, but on an on-line school.

4. Therefore you were on your own, not in a school environment, not making friends in a school environment. It should have rung alarmbells with your family. And, in fact, most expatriates would have left Hong Kong, but your parents stayed, I assume for financialreasons. But, sadly, obviously there was marital problems that led to a divorce. Then, your mother left last year, and coincidentallyyour problems started last year. I am sure they were brewing for a while.

5. From the facts, I see that your mother left you here and took your sister to Spain to marry. I have been told this morning whyshe did that. Words fail me, but clearly you were abandoned. And when she left you were only just 16. You were only 15 last summer. Your father obviously is trying to support you and himself and others, and therefore is very busy. It is the same old story; hedid not have enough time to look after you, give you guidance, discipline. And once that falls away trouble comes.

6. I was told the first time that you came to court, that you and your father’s relationship was fairly poor. He has obviously hada change of heart. But the fact is as of last autumn you were on the streets of Hong Kong when and where you felt like it at sucha young age meant you felt abandoned. And, in fact, you were abandoned, and I do have genuine sympathy for you.

7. The crime that you committed is a serious crime, and if you were any older a drug addiction treatment order would not be appropriate. But, as I have said, it was a non-domestic burglary. The items of value were recovered. If you were any older you would be lookingat 1 year 8 months sentence, even if you pleaded guilty. But because you are so young I got reports.

8. As I have said, if you were any older I would not have obtained reports either for you or the 2nd defendant. And because of yourage I did obtain reports and had to adjourn again for drug addiction treatment centre report because it transpires that drugs werean issue. And you now, for whatever reason, accept that they are an issue, and you yourself agree that you do need treatment, whichis very mature for a 17 year old. Most drug addicts do not admit it. There are different degrees of addiction. Let us hope yoursis not deep. But I would like to think that if you were willing to accept help and there is help for you, you will get it and itwill be useful.

9. It is not too late for you as you are only 17. Your parents now seem to accept some responsibility for what has gone wrong in thelast year. Your father wants to emigrate to Australia, and he has said that he is willing to wait and try and take you with him. I do not know whether he will be successful, but I hope it is. Australia would be a much better option for you for many reasons. One, if he left you would have nobody here. I cannot see how you could stay here on your own. I do not know where you would go. Secondly, there is vocational training available in Australia that is not available in Hong Kong for a non-Chinese speaking person. Just because you have ADD does not mean you cannot go on to learn a trade, get a profession, be successful. Even if you have hada drug problem in the past it is never too late, and especially when you are this young.

10. I cannot imagine that you would want to continue living the way you have, would you? No. Be it Hong Kong, Australia, America,if you do continue living the way you have been you will get into more and more trouble. And you do not get many chances in courts,and this may be your only one.

11. If you cannot go to Australia I do not know what would happen to you because your mother has obviously gone to Spain. You are nota Hong Kong resident or a local, or have any connection to Hong Kong. I do not know if you have any immediate family in America. But I do hope that your parents will not abandon you again and will help you organise something. And I hope you, in turn, proveto them that despite having gone off the rails for a year you will not re-offend. If you can live under their roof, it does notmatter how old you are, they are going to have rules and regulations. That is how families operate, and you will have to respectit. It is not going to be forever, but it might get you back on your feet.

12. Having read all the reports, heard mitigation, considered your plea, your very young age, you are clearly not a deep-rooted criminal,and the time where you have gone wrong is quite short. And I am quite sure that if you have your parental support it could be thelast time you stand in front of a court.

13. So I am willing, under those circumstances, to consider a drug addiction treatment centre order. And I will send you, for Charge1, to drug addiction treatment centre.

14. Now, counsel has asked me to consider exercising my discretion and not recording a conviction. Now, it’s a very unusual sectionthis because it is the only section that would allow the court the power for somebody over 16 not to record a conviction. And thehistory of it is because drug addiction treatment order is meant to be rehabilitative, it is meant to help you.

15. Now, in view of my finding that you got into this situation not purely of your own doing, and it may assist your future, I am goingto accept that submission and mitigation and I am not going to record a conviction. And I hope it may assist you. You may havedifficulty, but I would like to think that this would not be a hurdle.

16. But I also hope you have taken everything I have said into account. I have seen a lot of teenagers in the court. Some of themhave gone on to continually offend and come back before me. Some of them I have never seen again. Some of them I have met in thestreets and they have told me that they have gone on to bigger and better things. I hope for you that you have that opportunityand I hope for you that your parents will give you that opportunity.

17. Accordingly, for this charge you will be sentenced to DATC, the drug addiction treatment centre.

A. J. Woodcock
Deputy District Judge