HKSAR v. LOKU GALAPPATHTHIGE PRAMUKA SALINDA

DCCC 751/2015

IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE

HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION

CRIMINAL CASE NO 751 OF 2015

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HKSAR
v
LOKU Galappaththige Pramuka Salinda

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Before: Deputy District Judge Kathie Cheung

Date: 28 January 2016

Present: Mr Michael Arthur, Counsel on Fiat, for HKSAR
Mr Robert Andrews instructed by Daly & Associates, assigned by the Director of Legal Aid, for the Defendant

Offence: Arson with intent(有意圖而縱火)

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REASONS FOR SENTENCE

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1. The defendant was convicted after trial of one count of “Arson with intent”, contrary to sections 60(2) and (3) and 63(1) of the Crimes Ordinance, Cap. 200. The particulars of the offence allege that the defendant on 13 July 2015, at Ground Floor, No. 8 Wang Long Village, LammaIsland, in Hong Kong, did without lawful excuse damaged by fire the main door, the door frame, the walls, the ceiling, one window,one air-conditioner and one exhaust fan, property belong to another, intending to damage such property or being reckless as to whetherany property would be damaged, and being reckless as to whether the lives of others would thereby endangered.

Facts

2. The defendant was the tenant of the premises at Ground Floor, No. 8 Wang Long Village (“the Premises”). He previously livedwith his girlfriend and daughter at the Premises. They later left him. On 13 July 2015, the defendant confirmed with his girlfriendthat she and the daughter had returned to the Philippines. He would never see them again. He was sad and returned to the Premises. To erase the memory of his girlfriend and the daughter, he burnt some clothes on the floor near the bed and wardrobes of the bedroom. Having lit fire on 2-3 places on the pile of clothe, he closed the door of the bedroom, sat in the living room and let the fireburning in the bedroom. Later on, the fire on the clothes spread to other items in the bedroom. As a result, the bedroom and otherparts of the Premises were damaged. The cost of repair was about $90,000.

Mitigation

3. The defendant was born in Sri-Lanka. He is aged 27. He came to Hong Kong in 2005 as a refugee. He has 3 previous conviction recordsbut none of them relate to arson. On 10 April 2015, he was bound over for 12 months for the offence of “assault occasioning actualbodily harm”.

4. In mitigation, Mr Andrews submitted that the defendant was acting in anguish, on a spur of moment as his girlfriend and daughterhad left him and he was not going to see them again. It was further submitted that the defendant did make efforts to put out thefire at some risk to his personal safety. Further, given this conviction, the defendant is likely to be deported after he has servedhis sentence for this offence. Mr Andrews urged this court to impose a lenient sentence on the defendant.

Sentence

5. Arson is an extremely serious offence. As the gravity differs from case to case, the Court of Appeal has not laid down any sentencingguideline in respect of this offence.

6. In sentencing, I bear in mind the remark of the Court of Appeal in HKSAR v Kung Pak Fu [2008] 2 HKCLRT 240 that given Hong Kong is a densely populated city, unexpected occurrences of fire are bound to cause extremelyserious injuries and deaths or losses of properties. Therefore, acts of arson, in particular those relating to triads or involvingintimidation or revenge, must be sanctioned with heavy deterrent sentences.

7. I accept the defendant committed the offence on a spur of moment, that no inflammable liquid was used in setting the fire and hedid make efforts to put out the fire. On the other hand, I must take into consideration that the defendant did not burn the clothesin a container but burnt them near other flammable materials in a small bedroom. As a result, the fire spread to other part of thePremises causing substantial damages with a repair cost at around $90,000. And one must not lose sight of the fact that there werefamilies with young children living next to or nearby the defendant. The defendant’s conduct was highly unwise and might leadto extremely serious consequences.

8. In the light of the circumstances of this case and the mitigation of the defendant, I consider the appropriate starting point is3 years and 6 months’ imprisonment. As the defendant is convicted after trial, he is not entitled to the usual 1/3 discount forguilty plea. I see no other mitigating factors justifying reduction of the sentence. I therefore sentence the defendant to 3 yearsand 6 months’ imprisonment.

(Kathie Cheung)
Deputy District Judge