Hong Kong cabby jailed over fatal accident five days after he got licence

The District Court in Wan Chai.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A Hong Kong taxi driver who caused a traffic accident that killed a pedestrian just five days after getting his taxi licence was on Thursday jailed for six months and disqualified from driving for the next five years.

Cheung Tsz-hin, 24, apologised in the dock after he was sentenced on one count of dangerous driving causing death, to which he pleaded guilty, over the accident that killed Andy Yau Chi-man, 56, on June 18 last year.

But Yau's mother was dissatisfied.

"My son died and you got six months," she said.

The District Court heard the accident took place just after 3am on June 18 when Cheung suddenly steered right and hit another taxi travelling in the same direction along Nathan Road, near the junction of Kansu Street in Yau Ma Tei.

The second taxi then lost control and turned 90 degrees to mount the pavement and knock Yau down.

Kong Wai-hung, who was behind the wheel of the second taxi, said he applied the brakes but to no avail.

His passenger suffered minor injuries while Yau was trapped between his taxi and the roller gate of a nearby building.

Yau was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Jordan with an open wound to his chest and groin, as well as a fractured pelvis.

He had no pulse, heartbeat nor breath upon arrival, and was certified dead minutes later at 3.44am.

Cheung later explained he had made the abrupt turn as he was not familiar with the area and his passenger had suddenly shouted directions for him to turn right.

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He had lost judgment and steered right abruptly without paying attention to the road ahead.

But his defence lawyer argued he could not have foreseen the events after the turn and stressed he had a clear record with not even a fine in the past two years of driving.

The court also heard Cheung had wanted to become a taxi driver to earn a stable income. He had since developed post-traumatic stress disorder and was given antidepressants for recovery.

District Judge Katherine Lo Kit-yee said Cheung drove recklessly but accepted the mitigation he was a remorseful man of clear record.

She also observed that the death was in part caused by the fact that the other taxi had been travelling at a high speed, though within limits.

Fifteen months' imprisonment was adopted as a starting point of sentence, before it was discounted by one-third to credit Cheung's timely plea and reduced by another four months to account for his clear record and psychiatric condition.

Cheung was also banned from driving for the next five years and asked to attend a driving improvement course by the end of the disqualification period.

Dangerous driving causing death is punishable by 10 years' imprisonment in Hong Kong.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.