Barrister acquitted in case of alleged judicial tampering after young man’s drug conviction overturned

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1st March 2024 – (Hong Kong) A young Hong Kong man, Ma Ka-kin, who had been imprisoned for five years on drug trafficking charges, has been released following a successful appeal. The case has drawn significant attention not only for the dramatic reversal of Ma’s conviction but also due to the subsequent trial and recent acquittal of Dorothy Cheung Hiu-wai, a barrister implicated in allegations of obstructing the course of justice.

Ma Ka-kin was arrested in connection with a narcotics case and was initially prepared to plead guilty to attempted drug trafficking. However, in a high court hearing, he claimed he had been persuaded to admit guilt under the influence of a legal adviser, colloquially known as a “Shiye”, to facilitate the withdrawal of charges against a co-defendant. Despite his later denial of the charges, Ma was originally convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. After serving five years, his appeal was upheld, and he was subsequently exonerated.

Upon his release, Ma claimed that his representing barrister at the time, Ms. Cheung, had instructed him to copy a statement. Ms. Cheung faced charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice but steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. After a full trial, the district court Judge Cheung Kit-yee ruled that Dorothy Cheung was not guilty.

In her ruling, Judge Kathie Cheung Kit-Yee stated that she did not accept the testimony of the principal witness, Ma Ka-kin, and had reservations about Ms. Cheung’s account. The judge found that the prosecution failed to prove Cheung’s involvement in the alleged conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt, citing insufficient clarity about the circumstances of the meetings that took place.

Furthermore, the judge acknowledged that an agreement was likely reached between the legal adviser, Mr. Chan Keung-lei, and another man implicated in the drug trafficking case, Mr. Hung Chi-kan, aimed at preventing Hung from facing prosecution.

Dorothy Cheung, 35, a barrister, was charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice but has now been cleared of any malfeasance.