HKSAR v. LAU TAT YUEN

DCCC 1004/2014

IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE

HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 1004 OF 2014

____________

HKSAR
v
LAU TAT YUEN (D1)
___________

Before: HH Judge Dufton

Date: 14 April 2014

Present: Mr Trevor Beel, counsel on fiat, for HKSAR
Mr Caesar Lo instructed by Tang Wong & Chow,assigned by the Director of Legal Aid, for the defendant

Offences: (1) Theft (盜竊罪)
(2) Using a motor vehicle without third party insurance(沒有第三者保險而使用汽車)

REASONS FOR SENTENCE

1. Lau Tat Yuen you have pleaded guilty to one charge of theft, contrary to section 9 of the Theft Ordinance, Chapter 210 (charge 1) and one charge of using a motor vehicle without third party insurance, contrary to section 4 of the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance, Chapter 272 (charge 2).

2. In summary on the 4 September last year you stole a light goods vehicle, registration number HF 1927, from a car park in Sheung Shui.

3. You took with you a bag of tools and smashed the driver’s door window; deactivated the anti-theft alarm; dismantled the ignitionsystem and attached a specially made electrical adaptor to enable you to start the vehicle without the ignition key. You then drovethe vehicle, without third-party insurance, to a garage on Kam Sheung Road.

4. On leaving the garage after parking the vehicle you were arrested by the police. Under caution you admitted stealing the vehiclein order to sell parts from the vehicle to enable you to repair a similar light goods vehicle. After removing the parts you intendedto abandon the vehicle.

Mitigation

5. In passing sentence I have take into account everything said on your behalf by Mr Lo together with the mitigation letters submittedto court today. You are married with two children. I take into account your wife suffers from depression as can be seen from theattendance certificate submitted to court. Your daughter is still studying.

6. Since you were 20 you have been working in a garage repairing vehicles. However in 2007 you sustained an accident at work when youfell from height. This resulted in you being unable to work and the family relying on social security. When the children reached18 the amount of social security was significantly reduced. To help support the family you therefore looked for odd jobs repairingvehicles. Shortly before the commission of the offence the family had run out of money and could not afford to pay the electricbill. You received a disconnection notice (which I have seen) and sought an extension to pay for the bill.

7. You felt there was no alternative and foolishly resorted to crime again in order to make a little extra money by stealing the vehiclefor spare parts so you did not have to buy the parts to repair another vehicle. The consequences of your action have led to furtherfinancial difficulties for your family leading to your wife taking up part-time work.

Starting point

8. There are no guidelines each case depending entirely on its own facts. Deterrent sentences are nevertheless required. As was saidin HKSAR v Cheng Chun Ming CACC 356/2000:

“Cases involving the theft or handling of motor cars are very serious offences and inevitably call for immediate custodial sentencesof considerable length. This is absolutely necessary to act as a deterrent to a prevalent crime.”

9. In Cheng Chun Ming the Court of Appeal upheld a starting point of 3 years imprisonment for the handling of one stolen vehicle, described as casual andopportunistic. The same starting point has been held appropriate for the theft of goods vehicles (see Attorney General v Ng Kwok Hung CAAR 7/1996).

10. Higher starting points have been held appropriate where the theft was organised, planned and committed in concert with others orinvolved those in the motor trade (see for example HKSAR v Lai Lit Man CACC 578/2002; HKSAR v Li Kwok Ho CACC 253/2006; HKSAR v Chiu Kwok Wai Caesar [2008] 1 HKLRD 284 and HKSAR v Wong Kam Tat [2002] 2 HKC 677).

Sentence

11. I take into account that HF 1927 was not a luxury vehicle. The vehicle was first registered in 2005 with a taxable value of $161,400(see the Certificate of Particulars of Vehicle, exhibit P4). I am told the agreed value of the vehicle at the time of the offencewas $50,000. The cost of the repair for the damage to the vehicle is $21,000.

12. You clearly planned the theft taking with you tools, including a specially made electrical adaptor to enable you to start the vehiclewithout the ignition key. Although you are not a motor trader you clearly used your knowledge gained from working in the motor tradeto enable you to steal the vehicle. Further by intending to use parts from a stolen vehicle you were also deceiving the owner ofthe car given to you for repair.

13. I am satisfied in the circumstances that the proper starting point after trial is 3 years and 6 months imprisonment. A startingpoint may be increased where the defendant is a persistent offender. Although you have no previous convictions for theft you dohave two for taking a conveyance without authority in 1992 and 2008 and one for going equipped for stealing in 2007. Save for abinding over order imposed in 2012 you have not been convicted of any offence since 2008. Your last conviction therefore being over6 years ago I do not increase the starting point. Giving you full credit for your plea of guilty you are convicted and sentencedto 2 years and 4 months imprisonment.

Using a vehicle without third-party insurance

14. Taking into account that the driving was less than 20 minutes and was at night time when there was likely to be less traffic on theroad, I am satisfied a starting point after trial of 6 months imprisonment is appropriate. Giving you full credit for your plea ofguilty you are convicted and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment.

15. Taking into account that the using of the vehicle arises out of the theft of the vehicle and that the use was for a short time onlyI am satisfied concurrent sentences are appropriate. You will serve a total sentence of 2 years and 4 months imprisonment.

DISQUALIFICATION

16. By virtue of section 4(2)(a) of the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance unless the court finds special reasons there is mandatory disqualification for using a vehicle without third party insurance of notless than 12 months nor more than 3 years from the date of conviction. There are no special reasons in this case.

17. I am satisfied a period of 15 months disqualification is appropriate. You are disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licencefor all classes of vehicles for a period of 15months from today.

(D. J. DUFTON)
District Judge