From:        Fr John Wotherspoon
Ph: 67095674                     CSD chaplain No. 51


February 17, 2017

To The Hon Mr Justice Cheung, Chief Judge of the High Court

 Dear Judge Cheung

On August 26, 2016 , R.... (Remand No.....) who pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking in 3.5kg of cocaine received at Dubai Airport , was acquitted by a judge in Eastern Court . The reason R pleaded guilty was that she had heard that it is very difficult to win a not-guilty case in HK, and if you lose, you face an extra long time in prison. To its credit, the HK justice system realized R was innocent and acquitted her, despite her plea.

 Over the past few years I have become aware of other inmates who have pleaded guilty for the same reason as R, even though their cases involved a considerable, even large, amount of coercion…. to the point they were victims who might well have pleaded not guilty. But they did not plead not guilty for fear they might lose their case and then receive  an extra long sentence.

 I understand that coercion is not allowed to be taken into account in guilty-plea cases, and that judges are obliged to follow this black and white policy, so I would ask: is it not time that a review be made of the present policy?  

A sample case is attached. In the High Court this morning, February 17, HCCC.../2016, the story of another woman who received drugs at Dubai Airport was not allowed to be told. The defendant was required by her legal team to say she willingly brought drugs to Hong Kong . She was obliged to lie. This is not right.

If coercion is taken into consideration in the sentencing of guilty-plea cases, of course there's a danger most people will claim to have been coerced. But they will need evidence. At the moment, defendants with evidence are being denied justice because their evidence is not strong enough to win a not-guilty case so they are pleading guilty.

 I therefore humbly ask for a review of the present sentencing policy concerning the issue of coercion.             



John Wotherspoon

P.O. Box 74013