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‘Hypnotized’ shop thief irks magistrate, gets suspended sentence

24 July 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The Kwun Tong magistrate rejected Asong's claim that she took the goods while under a hypnotic spell

A 48-year-old Filipina domestic helper accused of shop theft was threatened with having her guilty plea thrown out today, Jul 24, after she annoyed a magistrate in Kwun Tong Court with her offhand, inconsistent replies.

But after she apologized to the court, Sarah Mary Grace Asong was sentenced to 14 days in jail, suspended for two years.
Asong had pleaded to one charge of theft when she appeared before Magistrate Ivy Chui without a lawyer, but with her employer around to lend her support.

She was accused of stealing seven bottles of hazelnut bread spread and 17 bars of chocolate worth a total of nearly $500 in a Fusion supermarket in Saikung on Jun 14.
The prosecution said Asong entered the supermarket, took the bottles of hazelnut spread and chocolate bars and put them in her bag. Then she left the store without paying.

A guard intercepted her outside the shop and checked the contents of her bag. When he did not find a receipt for the goods he called the police.

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Investigators said the defendant had $1,300 in her wallet at the time of the offense.

When Chui asked if she committed the offense out of need or greed, Asong simply stared at her. When the magistrate asked again, Asong nodded and mumbled “uhm-uhm”.
Then she said she pleaded guilty but did not remember stealing the goods because at the time she was “hypnotized” by her medication.

Chui asked her to clarify her answer and Asong replied she only pleaded guilty because she wanted to get over with the case.
The annoyed magistrate told Asong she would reject her guilty plea if she thought she could just go there and waste the court’s time. Chui then sent her to the Duty Lawyer Service for advice.

After half an hour, Asong returned and said sorry to Chui. She asked if she could just pay a fine, but the magistrate imposed the suspended sentence, which means she cannot re-offend in two years, or she will immediately go to jail for 14 days.

Outside the courtroom, the maid asked the Duty Lawyer Service’s representative if she would be jailed. When he said no, she asked if Immigration would renew her work visa. The lawyer replied: “I can’t answer that, ask Immigration.”

Asong’s female employer sighed with relief after learning what suspended sentence was and told her maid to respect Hong Kong law. 

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