Former Marine Department senior ship inspector Wong Kam-ching was sentenced to 15 months in jail at the District Court on Thursday morning for giving false testimony at the Lamma Ferry tragedy inquiry commission hearing.

On October 1, 2012, a Lamma passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan, killing 39 people, in one of Hong Kong’s deadliest ferry accidents. Last year, the captains of both vessels were found guilty of manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea.

Wong Kam-ching
Former senior ship inspector Wong Kam-ching.

Wong, 60, testified at the inquiry commission hearing in 2013 that he had seen 12 children’s life vests on Hongkong Electric’s Lamma IV during his inspection of the ship prior to the accident, when there were in fact none. He was earlier convicted of giving false testimony under oath by the District Court.

At the trial, the defence counsel said that the defendant had been under immense pressure after the hearing and had to receive treatment for mental problems such as depression and adjustment disorder, Oriental Daily reported.

Lamma IV
The Lamma IV following the collision. Photo: Wikicommons.

Judge Casewell said that the motive of the defendant was to protect himself and cover up the fact that the Marine Department had not fulfilled its duties properly, although thankfully the inquiry commission did not accept his testimony.

The judge said that as a ship inspector, the defendant’s testimony was extremely important, and he had a chance to amend it at the hearing but did not do so. He also said that it was a serious offence and that the defendant should be sentenced to immediate imprisonment. However, he took into account the defendant’s mental condition and the fact that he had lost his pension, and sentenced him to 15 months.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.