Judge's Niece Avoids Jail in Hong Kong Police Assault As Probation Upheld

A Hong Kong judge’s niece will stay on probation for assaulting a police officer, a magistrate ruled today in rejecting prosecutors’ arguments she should be jailed for her third such conviction.

“The focus of this court is not whether or not the defendant is rich or poor,” Magistrate Anthony Yuen said as he upheld his earlier sentence of Amina Mariam Bokhary. “It’s whether the defendant is good or bad in nature, whether she has a chance at rehabilitation.”

Bokhary, the niece of Court of Final Appeal Justice Kemal Bokhary, received a year’s probation for the assault and was fined for refusing to submit to a breath test after an auto accident Jan. 27. After her sentence was upheld, Amina Bokhary, 34, gave a thumbs-up sign to a bodyguard as she got up to leave.

The Hong Kong Department of Justice plans to apply to the Court of Appeal to review the sentence, according to a statement on the government’s website today.

Kevin Zervos, deputy director of public prosecutions, said today the history and seriousness of Bokhary’s crimes warrant an immediate jail term and asked Yuen to rethink his earlier sentence. Bokhary had two prior convictions for assaulting police officers that resulted in fines and community service.

“It appears that nothing has changed,” Zervos said. “She was given a chance at rehabilitation and it wasn’t taken.”

Bokhary’s lawyer, Christopher Morley, said his client “would like to start serving her sentence and to go on with her life.”

Mental Illness

Another of Bokhary’s lawyers, Peter Duncan, said public perceptions she received a light sentence because she came from a prominent and wealthy family were incorrect. Bokhary suffers from mental illness that was documented in statements from psychiatrists, and her sentence was “right on the mark,” Duncan said.

The South China Morning Post reported earlier Bokhary was also ordered to undergo treatment at the Betty Ford Center, a substance-abuse clinic in the U.S. Putting Bokhary in jail would address public concerns about the case “but will destroy the rest of the life of the defendant,” Yuen said.

The Department of Justice should appeal the sentence “to set a clearer guidance on the penalty in such cases,” Tony Liu, chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association, said outside the court.

To contact the reporter on this story: Debra Mao in Hong Kong at dmao5@bloomberg.net

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