【明報專訊】THE CASE of Amina Bokhary (whose uncle is Court of Final Appeal Permanent Judge Kemal Bokhary) has raised serious doubts, which have not subsided though she is now in jail. Citizens suspect the prosecution tried to let her off in deciding what to charge her with. Last week, the Department of Justice urged the Court of Appeal to give her a stiffer sentence. However, its counsel made a bizarre, "low-class" mistake. He failed to cite any precedents. Ms Bokhary was therefore given leniency. The respondent, who comes from an illustrious clan, has repeatedly been let off. Citizens cannot but have suspicions.
When Ms Bokhary was jailed for violating a condition of her probation order, the public outcry began to subside. However, something very baffling happened last week when the Department of Justice urged the court to jail Ms Bokhary immediately for refusing to give a breath sample.
A Court of Appeal judge asked Deputy Direct of Public Prosecution (DPP) Kevin Zervos to cite precedents of penalty, but he failed to do so. In fact, such precedents abound, and it only takes ten to twenty minutes to find some of them. The Deputy DPP's failure is very baffling indeed. Eventually, the Court of Appeal extended Ms Bokhary's driving ban from one year to three years but decided not to jail her for the offence. The court criticised the Department of Justice, calling it "unhelpful". Ms Bokhary was let off again.
Several coincidences have happened in a row to Ms Bokhary, whose kinsmen have innumerable ties with Hong Kong's legal profession. While she has got off the hook, Hong Kong's justice system has suffered. People therefore suspect that, though all are equal before the law, some are "more equal" than others.
One who does not believe any is legally privileged in Hong Kong may point out what we have mentioned above is pure conjecture and there is no evidence that any has tried to shield Ms Bokhary. However, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done. Clearly, in Amina Bokhary's case, justice has not been seen to be done, and that has shaken the public's confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong.
The problem is equally serious even if none has tried to protect Ms Bokhary and none is legally privileged in Hong Kong, but a number of mistakes on the part of the prosecution have given the public a wrong impression.
It has long been rumoured in the legal profession that Kevin Zervos is very likely to become the next DDP. As such an important official has made such a serious mistake and the prosecution has made one mistake after the other, citizens' suspicion of or worry about shoddy prosecutions is not unfounded.
Shoddy prosecutions would badly damage the rule of law in Hong Kong, as would attempts to protect privileged people. The matter ought not to be regarded as an isolated case. It must not be dropped just because Ms Bokhary is now behind bars. The Secretary for Justice owes the public a persuasive account. The Legislative Council penal that should look at such cases must follow it up. Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung must find out and let the public know what has actually happened. Only if the authorities do so can public confidence be salvaged.