April 17, 2014

Hongkonger jailed over sheep's death on electric fence

The first-ever prosecution under a two-decade-old law has resulted in a jail sentence for a man who set up an electric fence that killed a neighbour's pregnant sheep.

Chan Hon-Kay, 51, was jailed for two months yesterday after earlier being found guilty by Fanling Court of failing to prevent an electrical accident, an offence under the 1990 Electricity Ordinance.

As well as killing the ewe, the fence left a neighbour who tried to rescue the animal, Yan Hau-ming, unconscious and injured two other sheep, the court head.

Prosecutor Francis Ngan told the court there was no precedent for a prosecution for the offence, which applies to owners of electrical devices which harm others, regardless of the owner's intent or presence at the scene.

Deputy Magistrate Cherry Hui Shuk-yee said: "Not only did the sheep die, the two lambs it was pregnant with also died … Chan, as the person who deliberately set up the device, must be held responsible.

"[Chan] set up a dangerous device while knowing there was considerable risk" of death, Hui said. She cited the comments of an engineer, who told an earlier hearing that "if a sheep or a man comes into contact with electrical wires of 220 volts, the sheep or man may be electrocuted".

The defence had earlier denied all knowledge of the fence, which was placed in a bushy area in Lok Ma Chau between land owned by Chan's family and land belonging to Yan's family, which owned the sheep.

The court heard that Chan's family had a series of disputes with Yan's family, who ran a farm and were rearing 22 sheep.

Yan earlier told the court he had rushed to the scene when he heard the ewe moaning, only to find wiring wrapped around its neck. After passing out from an electric shock, he said he awoke after two minutes and saw Chan collecting the wire.

Chan had told the court he was working with his brother-in-law in Yuen Long at the time of the accident on July 29, an alibi Hui dismissed as unbelievable.

The magistrate said yesterday that there was no precedent for the offence, but that the law allowed for a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and up to six months in prison. She rejected defence counsel Felix Hoe's plea for a suspended sentence or fine, as "Chan's background reports showed no remorse or reason for commutation of the jail term".

The defence immediately applied for leave to appeal against the conviction. Hui granted the application and released Chan on bail of HK$30,000.

Outside court, Chan's family said they would not give up the fight to prove his innocence.

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