Dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence – suspended sentence of imprisonment – review of sentence – subject to exceptional circumstances, offence attracted immediate custodial sentence even for first offender – discount to reflect immediate custodial sentence imposed on review – for offence of dealing with HK$630,000 in cash during period of 21 months, immediate custodial sentence of eight months’ imprisonment imposed on review
D pleaded guilty in the District Court to dealing with property known or believed to represent the proceeds of an indictable offence. She had so dealt with HK$630,000 in cash during the period 16 November 2009 to 18 August 2011. The predicate offence was that of operating an unlawful gambling establishment. In sentencing her to seven months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, the Deputy Judge took into account in D’s favour that she was a divorcée, aged 58, who was responsible for the care of her 16-year-old son who suffered from reading and writing disabilities, she derived no monetary gain from the offence of dealing and she had played a relatively passive role in it. The seven-month term was arrived at by adopting a starting point of 12 months which was discounted by one third for plea and then further discounted by one month to reflect the time for the matter to be brought to court. The Secretary for Justice applied for a review of the sentence on the grounds of manifest inadequacy and error in principle.
Held, granting the application and imposing an immediate custodial sentence of eight months’ imprisonment, that:
- In all the circumstances, the appropriate starting point was 18 months’ imprisonment. D would then be afforded, as the Deputy Judge afforded her, a one-third discount for plea and a further one-month discount to reflect the time for the matter to be brought to court. This would result in a term of 11 months’ imprisonment.
- Subject to exceptional circumstances, dealing with property known or believed to represent the proceeds of an indictable offence attracted an immediate custodial sentence even for a first offender. There were no such exceptional circumstances in the present case.
- D’s counsel having invited the Deputy Judge to impose a suspended sentence, D bore some responsibility for the sentence imposed on her. But that was not a bar to the Court of Appeal affording her some discount of sentence to reflect the undoubted distress to her of being sent to prison on review. She was entitled to such a discount of three months, resulting in a final sentence of eight months’ imprisonment.