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Ex-DH nixes lawyer for indecency trial

17 February 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A male Filipino former domestic helper charged with grossly indecent behavior towards a 10-year-old girl defiantly refused on Tuesday, Feb 7, a Kowloon City magistrate’s instruction to engage a duty lawyer, insisting that he can defend himself.

Armando S. Armesto, 49, also insisted on speaking to the court in English despite a Tagalog interpreter telling him to speak his dialect.

Armesto, earlier sentenced in Kwun Tong Court to six weeks in jail for overstaying in Hong Kong for 11 months, appeared in Kowloon Court for a pretrial review of a charge of  “gross indecency with or towards a child under 16” laid against him.

Magistrate Peter Law asked Armesto why he had no duty lawyer to represent him, reminding the defendant that the hearing was a pretrial review.

“I don’t have a lawyer but I can answer the charge against me,” the defendant said arrogantly.
“Why the review? I’ve been in jail for three months.”

The magistrate was apparently piqued but kept his cool, explaining to the defendant that the pretrial review is a screening process in which the lawyers of both sides sift through evidence to determine which ones are in dispute, and which one are not.

The prosecution asked for a two-day trial in which it would present seven witnesses, two of them by way of video recorded interview because of their young age.

A 38-minute video recorded interview with the first prosecution witness (the alleged victim) and a 45-minute interview with another girl, the second witness. The prosecution also has a video recorded interview with Armesto.

Armesto still insisted that he did not need a lawyer and a Tagalog interpreter, so the magistrate dismissed the interpreter, Menchu Rivera.

But the defendant relented when Magistrate Law told him the prosecution would be getting two interpreters – one interpreting from Cantonese to Putonghua and from Putonghua to English.

Armesto changed his mind and agreed when he was told he would need an interpreter who would be interpreting the witnesses’ statements from English to Tagalog.

The defendant applied to post bail but the magistrate turned him down, saying the prosecution opposed bail for him because of the serious nature of his offense and his lack of local ties.
Magistrate Law set the trial for Mar 16 and 17.

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