Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

HKSAR v. Lau Chung-tim High Court of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Court of First Instance (2014)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender violence in conflict, Gender-based violence in general

Defendant pled guilty to two counts of throwing corrosive fluid with intent to do grievous bodily harm, in contravention of section 29(c) of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance, Cap 212. The corrosive fluid thrown was sulphuric acid, concentrated at 87%. Sulphuric acid at that concentration is highly corrosive and capable of causing severe burns to the skin and permanent damage to the eyes. His victims were his estranged wife and his 21-year-old son. At the time of the incident, Defendant was 65 and he was in the process of divorce, living apart from his estranged wife. Defendant returned to the marital home and became emotional, taking a knife and threatening his soon to be ex-wife. When his son, the second victim, saw what was occurring, he stood in front of his mother to protect her. Defendant opened a bottle of liquid and poured it on his estranged wife’s chest. The liquid also splashed onto his son. Because his wife was wearing only a nightgown and his son only underwear, both were burned. The victims rushed to the bathroom to attempt to wash off the liquid. They locked the door and called for help, but Defendant kicked the door in, causing a subsequent struggle. After the situation ended, the victims were taken to a hospital, where it was determined that Defendant’s estranged wife suffered 38% body burns and the son suffered 25% surface burns. The Court noted that “[acid throwing] is a very serious offence of a type which sadly occurs far too often in Hong Kong. . . . The offender aims to punish the victim for the emotional damage and to ensure that the victim is disfigured or incapacitated. The defendant here was intent on punishing the first victim for proceeding with the divorce.” The maximum penalty for acid throwing is life imprisonment. In this case, the judge passed down a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.



HKSAR v. Cheung Cho-Fat High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Court of Appeal (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

A Hong Kong man pleaded guilty to two counts of throwing corrosive fluid with intent to do grievous bodily harm at his wife and daughter. The man and his wife were in their early 70s. The facts showed that, after a 50-year marriage, the man and his wife separated. The man, in an angered state, went to his wife’s home with two jars of a liquid that was 88% sulphuric acid. The man threw one jar at his wife’s face, causing her to run. The wife ran and hid behind her daughter, but the man still launched the second jar of acid at them, causing them both burns. The wife suffered second degree partial thickness burns to her face, eyelids and arms, leaving her in the hospital for four days. The daughter suffered first-degree burns to her neck and arm. The man was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for each crime, which he was to serve concurrently. The man appealed his sentence, claiming the following: (1) The sentences were wrong in principle because, in coming to the factual circumstances in which the offenses had been committed, the judge took into account evidentiary material that was not properly before the court; and (2) by making such impermissible findings and by failing to give proper weight to the matters advanced in mitigation, the judge imposed a sentence that was manifestly excessive. The High Court dismissed the man’s appeal. As to the first count, the High Court held that the evidence that the judge took into account would have made no practical difference to the sentence because, in part, acid throwing is “a particularly vicious crime, one viewed with understandable abhorrence by right thinking members of society.” As to the second count, the High Court compared the case at hand to precedent cases and held that the sentence imposed in this case was “entirely appropriate.”



Sekandi Hassan v. Uganda Supreme Court of Uganda (2007)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The deceased, a 16-year-old girl, lived with her mother and brother. For approximately a year, the deceased would sneak out and have sexual intercourse with appellant, a married man who lived approximately 200 meters away from the deceased. A week before the incident, the deceased told her mother that appellant had impregnated her. This greatly displeased her mother, and she reported this to LCs officials. On the night of the incident, the deceased’s mother noticed appellant at her residence before appellant and the deceased left for the night. The next morning, the deceased was found lying by the side of the road about one mile from her home. She was in critical condition and had severe acid burns. Unable to speak, she wrote her information on a piece of paper, including her name and the name of the person who brought her to her location (appellant). She died later that day, and a medical examiner found the cause of death to be severe burns and pulmonary edema. Appellant was later arrested and convicted. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the conviction rested on weak circumstantial evidence and that his alibi deserved re-evaluation. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled against appellant. They found that the case against appellant relied on the credibility of the deceased’s mother and brother, who, due to proximity and prior acquaintance, knew appellant very well. The court also found that the fact that the deceased’s mother was pursuing actions against appellant gave him a motive for the murder, so as to avoid a possible defilement charge. In sum, the court held that there was ample evidence to convict appellant over his alibi and hence dismissed the appeal.



Reports

Burnt Not Defeated (2007)

Gender-based violence in general

Report by Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) on acid attacks in Karnataka, India.