A Hong Kong court has sentenced a woman to five months in jail for helping two inmates file civil claims against alleged police violence using forged signatures, marking the first conviction against a prison visitor accused of fuelling anti-government sentiments since authorities vowed to crack down on such behaviour.
West Kowloon Court on Wednesday also sentenced Lin Ming-yee for attempting to pressure two detainees into lying to police that they had indeed signed the writs after the crime came to light.
Lin earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to make a false instrument and one of intending to pervert the course of justice in a case handled by police’s national security unit.
Cheung, 33, and Ho, 39, respectively filed a personal injury claim to the High Court earlier this year saying officers had “unlawfully and maliciously” assaulted them in two police stations after their arrest.
The detained pair were required by law to file the claims within three years after the alleged incidents happened.
But the court heard they had instructed those visiting them to falsify their signatures so they could complete the paperwork in time.
Prison audio recordings reportedly showed them instructing Lin and 33-year-old delivery man Ngan Hok-kin, both frequent visitors of the prison, to sign and file the legal documents on his behalf.
Police arrested the four in early June and allowed Lin and Ngan bail pending further inquiries.
The day after her release, Lin visited the Lai Chi Kok facility again and told another inmate to warn the pair they must insist the writs bore their genuine signatures if they were questioned by investigators.
Senior Inspector Yau Cho-yi of police’s national security department said the forged signatures would affect how the force handled the civil claims.
“The writs of summons bearing forged signatures would mislead the Hong Kong Police Force into accepting them as genuine instruments signed by the applicants which were duly submitted in time,” she said.
He cited a mitigation letter by an NGO volunteer who praised Lin’s dedication to help those held behind bars even though she had no personal connection to them.
But Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han said the gravity of the offences meant a term of immediate imprisonment was inevitable.
She said Lin had blatantly flouted the law by attempting to obstruct the course of justice soon after she was released on police bail.
She jailed the retiree for two to four months on each charge before passing a total sentence of five months.
The other three defendants, each charged with a count of conspiracy to make a false instrument, are expected to enter a plea in early October.