AG v Yeung Sun-Shun Lee Ming-Sun Hong Kong

Date of opinion

As a result of an earlier ruling, namely reversing the verdict of acquittal of the District Judge and recording a conviction against both respondents, it is now the task of the Court of Appeal ("the Court") to impose such sentence as is proper in the circumstances.
The trial judge found that the two respondents and another man, who gave evidence for the prosecution, conspired together to import into Hong Kong 619 ivory tusks. The two charges the respondents faced were: 1. Conspiracy to import unmanifested cargo, contrary to common law and Section 18(1)(a) of the Import and Export Ordinance, Cap. 60; and 2. conspiracy to import scheduled species without licence, contrary to common law and section 4(1) of the Animals and Plants Protection of Endangered Species Ordinance (Cap. 187).
The first respondent, an ivory carver, was expected to receive ivory of a value of about USD 500,000, it being accepted that this ivory could not have come into his possession by legitimate methods. The second respondent, although a supplier and not a user of the ivory, was involved in the illegal importation into Hong Kong, worth approximately USD 1M. The Court found that this was a serious conspiracy to import schedule species into Hong Kong.
The Court found that the nature of the offences are serious in nature and require a proper sentence on the first charge of an immediate nine months of imprisonment on each of the respondents. It is worth noting, that the maximum punishment of offences against Section 18(1)(a) of Cap. 60 has been lifted to USD 50,000 and two years imprisonment in 1984. With regard to the second charge, the offence against Section 4(1) of Cap. 187, the maximum sentence for a first offender (which both respondents are in this case) is a fine of USD 5,000. Here, the Court noted that this amount, in the view of the importance of the protection of species, seems to be a derisory maximum. The Court therefore suggested here that the Legislature should re-examine the penalty which can be imposed under that Section. A maximum fine of USD 5,000 was imposed on each of the respondents.
Finally, the Court also reasoned the following:
"It is our custom, on an application for review, to allow a discount to respondents from the sentence that we think should have been imposed by the trial judge. We shall follow that practice in this case, and accordingly reduce the sentence of nine months imprisonment on the first charge to one of six months. We do not propose to allow any discount of the fine of USD 5,000 imposed on each respondent on the second charge." (Provided by: UNODC SHERLOC)

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