Hong Kong judge, wife jailed

By Teddy Ng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-27 07:34

HONG KONG: Retired High Court judge Miles Henry Jackson-Lipkin and his barrister wife Lucille Fung Yung-shim were sentenced to 11 months in prison on Friday for welfare fraud.

In handing down the sentence, Kowloon City Magistracy chief magistrate Patrick Li said a deterrent sentence was needed as similar offences were on the rise.

"Their conduct deprives the system of resources to assist those in genuine need," he said.

Jackson-Lipkin, 82, and Fung, 81, defrauded the Social Welfare Department (SWD) of HK$101,344 in welfare payments between 2003 and 2005.

They were also given a public housing flat. The pair had not disclosed their assets in bank accounts and stock shares totaling between HK$1.5 million and HK$2 million, and a flat in Vancouver.

Jackson-Lipkin was appointed a High Court judge 1981 and retired in 1987. The couple applied for welfare in 2003, citing investment loss and lack of support from their children as reasons.

Li said the couple had shown little remorse. They had contested the charges, but the evidence was overwhelming.

Li also turned down the couple's request to be released on bail pending an appeal.

The SWD investigation found that the pair flew twice to Beijing and three times to London, with one trip in business class, that cost more than HK$50,000 while receiving social security.

They possess an American Express Platinum Card, which charges HK$5,000 in annual fees.

The couple also spent an average of HK$1,000 a week at the American Club and lunch with friends at the up-market Luk Yu Teahouse in Central. Their credit card bills were settled promptly.

The court had also heard that Fung had purchased Hang Seng Bank stocks after applying for welfare.

The couple moved into a public housing flat in 2005, even though it was given to them in August 2004. They had spent more than HK$100,000 on renovation, including a marble floor.

Defense lawyer, senior counsel Wong Ching-yue, said in mitigation, that Fung suffers from asthma and osteoporosis, and the couple's life in prison would be difficult because of their advanced age.

"They'll have absolutely nothing to look forward to for the rest of their lives," he said.

Wong also presented four mitigation letters, with one signed by 12 people including former Court of Appeal vice-president Gerald Godfrey.

But Li said he had already considered the humiliation the couple might suffer in prison.

The number of welfare fraud cases had increased from 22 in the financial year 2000/2001 to 133 in 2006/2007.

A spokesman for SWD welcomed the sentence, saying it deterred the abuse of welfare.($1=HK$7.8)

(China Daily 01/27/2007 page3)

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