Hong Kong TV star appeals against 18-day jail sentence for careless driving case

Hong Kong television star Lam Ming-lok, whose artist name is Mat Yeung Ming, appears at the High Court in Admiralty.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong television star Mat Yeung Ming is appealing against his 18-day jail sentence over a careless driving case on the grounds that there was no evidence he had endangered road users by deliberately driving under the influence of alcohol.

The 41-year-old TVB actor stood before a High Court judge on Thursday (Sept 22) for the appeal against his convictions arising from a car crash in the Mid-Levels more than two years ago. No one was injured in the incident. The judge adjourned giving his decision until December and ordered him to refrain from driving as part of the bail conditions.

Yeung’s legal counsel, Martin Hui Siu-ting SC, told the appellate court that the trial magistrate could not cite his use of alcohol in enhancing his sentence as his client had not been charged with a drink-driving offence, despite a police officer saying the artist “reeked of alcohol” when he was rescued in August 2020.

A handout photo. Police pull Mat Yeung Ming out of his car after an accident on Magazine Gap Road in 2020.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

“The charge in the present case was one of careless driving. The time and location of the offence both concerned a careless behaviour... There was nothing whatsoever in the facts admitted about the defendant being under the substantial influence of alcohol,” Hui said.

The trial magistrate had also erroneously disregarded community service as a viable alternative sentencing option in the present case, the counsel added.

Yeung, whose real name is Lam Ming Lok, lost control of his black Mercedes-Benz while driving on Magazine Gap Road in the early hours of Aug 8, 2020.

Eastern Court heard last year the actor had steered the car in a zigzag motion before it ploughed through a curb, slid 20 metres downslope and smashed a road sign.

An “absent-minded” Yeung was carried out of the ravaged vehicle by two policemen. When he was sent to hospital, he was said to be so mentally unstable that he had to be placed in a straitjacket for medical examination.

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Yeung pleaded guilty to charges of careless driving and illegally tinting his car window, but was cleared after trial of a third count of failing to provide a blood sample, a drink-driving-related offence.

Just as Yeung was about to be remanded in custody at the conclusion of his trial, he reversed his two guilty pleas on the grounds that his original legal counsel, Cheng Huan SC, had misled him into believing he would be spared jail, an application granted by Magistrate Daniel Tang Siu Hung.

The prosecution subsequently applied for a review of that decision, which was dismissed, before Yeung’s new counsel, Hui, indicated he would plead guilty again to the same set of driving offences.

In November last year, Tang jailed Yeung for 18 days, disqualified him from driving for two years and fined him HK$2,000 (S$361), but released him on bail pending the present appeal.

On Thursday, Hui cited cases in England and Australia to argue the magistrate had “gone down the slippery slope” when he threw his client behind bars for careless driving, an offence which can be suitably disposed of with a fine or community service.

Mr Justice Johnny Chan Jong-herng, however, questioned the basis of that submission.

“The defendant drove his car knowing that he had consumed alcohol. Why couldn’t the court take it into consideration in sentencing?” Chan said.

Although there were cases in which a defendant was spared jail for the more serious offence of dangerous driving causing death, the judge noted an accused could not reasonably expect the court to show the same level of leniency in every case.

The judge adjourned giving his decision until Dec 22 and released Yeung on HK$100,000 cash bail, on condition that he stay in Hong Kong and refrain from driving.

Yeung had a previous drink-driving conviction in 2005, where he was fined HK$7,000, as well as records of speeding and use of mobile devices while driving. He claimed that he had lost close to HK$1 million because of the present case.

Yeung is known for starring as a police officer in multiple TVB dramas, including the 2021 series Shadow of Justice. He has also filmed crime prevention and recruitment promotion clips for the police force.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.