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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Hong Kong’s High Court overturns guilty verdict in animal cruelty case

Hong Kong’s High Court overturns guilty verdict in animal cruelty case

Yuki Wong was sentenced to 80 hours of community service after she posted video of cat in washing machine.

A Hong Kong woman sentenced to community service for trapping her cat in a washing machine has won an appeal against her conviction on the grounds the trial magistrate misapplied the law in disregarding her exculpatory evidence.

But the High Court’s ruling on Tuesday may not mean insurance agent Yuki Wong Yee-ting is in the clear, with prosecutors highlighting the prospect of a retrial.

Wong received 80 hours of community service at Tuen Mun Court in February this year after a magistrate identified the 29-year-old appellant as the one who abused the cat. She was also told to pay HK$27,000 (US$3,454) in medical expenses to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Insurance agent Yuki Wong leaves Tuen Mun Court after being convicted of animal cruelty in February.

The insurance agent landed herself in court after posting a video on Instagram on February 7 last year, which showed her cat locked inside a spinning washing machine for 14 seconds at her flat in Tin Chak Estate in Tin Shui Wai.

The animal can be seen pressing its muzzle against the transparent lid of the top-loading machine, at which point the machine is opened and the animal immediately leaps out.

The woman laughed off the abuse with a caption claiming it was merely a “prank” played on the animal as it had defecated where it was not supposed to.

Wong told the lower court that a friend called Yan was responsible for the ill-treatment and had subsequently sent the video to her.

But she refused to disclose her friend’s full name and their relationship, adding she had moved overseas and was unable to assist in the investigation.

Deputy Magistrate Henry Fung Lim-wai found Wong’s account incredible, saying it was unreasonable for her to remain silent throughout the police investigation only to reveal the identity of the purported culprit during the trial.

But an appeal, Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau expressed reservations about the basis for the magistrate’s dismissal of the appellant’s evidence.

The judge noted that while Fung did emphasise the prosecution needed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, he appeared to have erroneously placed the evidential burden on the defence in violation of common law principles.

The higher court highlighted the magistrate’s ruling that the appellant needed to demonstrate “sufficient and substantial evidence” to show her friend was likely to be the person who put the cat inside the washing machine.

The judge stressed that defendants were not required to prove their innocence.

“Upon careful consideration, I am unable to find the magistrate’s judgment in relation to the appellant’s credibility was secure,” the justice said.

The High Court found it unnecessary to rule on the other grounds of the appeal, noting that the case could be remitted to the magistrates’ court for a retrial.

Animal cruelty is punishable by up to three years behind bars.

The appellant is the elder sister of the 2019 Miss Hong Kong, Carmaney Wong Ka-man.


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