Secretary for Justice v Chan Kin Chung (陳健聰)
Coleman J
28 December 2020

Facts

After a police constable (PW1) used his firearm during a public order event and a 21-year-old person was injured by one shot, D posted on his Facebook account four doxxing messages containing personal data of PW1, his wife and his two daughters, in contravention of an injunction order restraining doxxing of police officers and their family members (the Doxxing Injunction). In his first post, D posted a photo of PW1 and made the personal comment “Firing a real gun, eh? Will take time playing with you, the Hong Kong Police”. In his evidence, D said that he simply forwarded messages found on a Telegram channel, and that the Doxxing Injunction was not at the forefront of his mind when he posted the messages. D deleted all four posts a few days later. PW1 and his family had been subject to abuse after he was doxxed. The Secretary of Justice brought committal proceedings against D for civil contempt of court. D admitted liability. This was the sentencing hearing.

Held, sentencing D to an immediate custodial sentence of 21 days, that:

  1. The purpose of the law of contempt was not to protect the dignity of judges, but to prevent interference with the due administration of justice. It was fundamental to the rule of law that orders of the court were obeyed. The difference between today and the pre-internet and social media era was the very easy practical way any individual could breach an order of the court and widely disseminate information, making these breaches worse rather than less serious. Rights and freedoms did not exist in a vacuum but came with responsibilities (Secretary for Justice v Chan Oi Yau Riyo [2020] 3 HKLRD 494, Secretary for Justice v Cheng Lai King [2020] 5 HKLRD 356 applied). (See paras.42–45.)
  2. The Court should adopt the general position of the normal penalty imposed for breaches of injunction orders, namely a period of imprisonment measured in months, taking into account inter alia that: (i) not only was D reckless as he admitted, his first post also made it clear that he was intent on causing at least nuisance to PW1; (ii) that the Doxxing Injunction was not at the forefront of his mind was precisely part of the problem; (iii) that D posted a series of offending posts which unlawfully and directly divulged extensive personal data relating to not only PW1, but also his wife and two young children; (iv) all of D’s posts were made public; and (v) the impact of doxxing on victims was severe and long-lasting, and the sentence imposed should have a deterrent effect (Secretary for Justice v Chan Oi Yau Riyo [2020] 3 HKLRD 494 applied). (See paras.46–47.)
  3. Notwithstanding D’s prior clear record and other matters of mitigation, including his removal of the posts a few days later after posting, that his posts mainly consisted of re-posting of information, and his co-operation with the police and admission of liability at an early stage, the contempt in this case would not properly be reflected in a suspended custodial sentence, but would rather be properly reflected in the reduction of the custodial sentence to a relatively short period. In the circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence of 21 days was appropriate. (See paras.48–50, 58.)

Hearing

This was a hearing to sentence the defendant for contempt in respect of a breach of an injunction (see [2019] 5 HKLRD 500 for the judgment granting continuation of that injunction) following his admission of liability.

Jurisdictions: