- Louis Lo, detained for 93 days for possessing explosives, has charges dropped because police had no consent from secretary for justice
- Suspect remains charged and in custody after prosecutors granted approval to pursue Lo’s case under a new case file
For the second time in a week, Hong Kong prosecutors have been forced to withdraw charges against defendants arrested over anti-government protests because of what they called a "procedural error".
Louis Lo Yat-sun, who has been detained for more than three months on explosives possession, had his charges dropped on Tuesday after it was revealed that police did not receive prior consent for his prosecution from the secretary for justice.
Lo, a 28-year-old member of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Front, remains charged with one count of possession of an explosive substance at West Kowloon Court, after prosecutors applied to continue the prosecution under a new case file.
Section 55(3) of the Crimes Ordinance stipulates that prosecution for possessing explosives cannot proceed without the written consent of the justice secretary.
Similar requirements apply to certain charges as a safeguard to ensure an appropriate level of scrutiny in serious crimes.
Last Thursday, West Kowloon Court heard that part-time waiter Tung Sheung-lam, 23, and student Ting Chin-fung, 17, who each faced one count of possession of explosive substance, had been charged without the secretary for justice's written approval.
The justice department spotted the mistake in the October 17 case when the defendants first appeared in court. Prosecutors only realised the mistake in Lo's case after he spent 93 days in jail.
Pair arrested as Hong Kong police raid flat and seize explosives
A legal source told the Post that the justice department had reviewed other cases related to the recent protest crisis after learning of the procedural irregularity in the case of Tung and Ting.
The department notified West Kowloon Court over the weekend that Lo's charge had been handed down without the required procedures.
The source said the case files related to Lo's prosecution had been prepared by the police.
Lo was accused of knowingly possessing triacetone triperoxide on July 19 at Lung Shing Factory Building on Texaco Road.
At the hearing, acting chief magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen accepted the prosecution's application to apply a new charge to Lo, after considering the serious nature of the offence, which is punishable by 14 years in prison.
Law also took into account that police had seized 1.5kg (3.3lbs) of explosives from the flat " the largest amount of explosives found in Hong Kong since its return to China in 1997, according to prosecutors.
National Front member arrested over Hong Kong explosives is denied bail
Law adjourned the case to November 13 so the prosecution could seek further legal advice. Lo made no bail application and remained in custody.
A Department of Justice spokesman said the prosecution had made a submission in court over the matter concerned and declined to make further comments on the ongoing proceedings.
A police spokesman declined to comment on the case, but said the force acknowledges the requirements of the law and maintains in close contact with the justice department on prosecution procedures.
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