Insanity Defense: Warrant out for attorney who questioned magistrate’s mental health

An arrest warrant is out for a defense attorney who allegedly insulted a magistrate in court by asking her if she was “insane.”

According to an HK01 report from yesterday evening, the warrant was issued on February 4 by magistrate Ho Lai-ming, who is presiding over a minor traffic case being heard in the Eastern Magistrates’ Court.

The case centers around an incident on April 25, 2016, when Thapa Kamala was crossing Tai Tam Road and was struck by a taxi.

She was charged with pedestrian negligence, under the Road Traffic Ordinance, which states that those who negligently endanger their safety or that of other people while using Hong Kong’s roads (for instance, traipsing across the street with your nose buried in your cellphone) are liable to a HK$500 (about US$64) fine. Such cases are considered routine, and can usually be concluded in a few days.

Not so this time around.

According to Apple Daily, the case in question has seen more than 40 days of court hearings — stretched out over more than a year — at Eastern Magistrates’ Court. The lengthy delay has been attributed to defense attorney Kelvin Leung, who has thrown up a number of procedural stumbling blocks, including requesting a new magistrate to oversee the case, calling for a judicial review, and requesting changes to the defendant’s bail conditions, among other things.

The newspaper, citing an anonymous source, reported that on one occasion, Leung even turned up to court with a white gauze bandage wrapped around his right arm — over the sleeve of his suit — and requested that the proceedings be adjourned because he had injured himself. The magistrate refused.

A person familiar with the proceedings told Apple Daily that during a hearing on January 2, Leung and Ho, the magistrate, were arguing like a married couple when Leung reportedly blurted: “Are you insane?”

An arrest warrant was subsequently issued under the Magistrates’ Ordinance, which states that anyone who insults a magistrate carrying out their duties in court can be subject to a six month prison sentence and a HK$10,000 (US$1,270) fine.

Leung claimed to the newspaper today that he hadn’t been officially notified that a warrant was out for his arrest, and that he had only heard about it through media reports last night.

He also told the newspaper that he was surprised that Ho would issue a warrant, saying he treated her with respect.

While admitting that he did ask Ho if she was insane, he maintained he was asking out of “care”  for her mental health, claiming she too had asked him whether he was “mentally OK.”

According to HK01, the defendant informed the court on January 31 that she had replaced Leung as her defense counsel, and her case will resume on Thursday.

 


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