Criminal law is relevant if you have committed an act that is liable to criminal punishment, ranging from traffic offences to murder. The prosecution must prove that the accused committed the physical act with a particular mental state, the elements of which vary according to the offence. You may choose to submit a plea of guilty, which in normal circumstances may grant you a ⅓ penalty deduction, or face trial and defend your innocence against prosecution.
Dennis leads a double life. During the day, he is a regular, hard-working salesman. However, at night, he has a hobby of dialing up random phone numbers from a list he secretly downloaded from his company’s computer. When people pick up, Dennis presents his best growling voice and tells them he loves them and knows where they live. He likes it when they get frightened and hang up the phone, and sometimes dials the same person multiple times. His colleague, Fred, knowing Dennis’ secret hobby but feeling bad for him, gave him an unused phone to use for this purpose. Eventually, one of Dennis’ call receivers, who suffered psychiatric injury due to Dennis’ calls, traced back Dennis’ number and reported him to the police.
Some potential offences Dennis may be convicted for include:
- Access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent (Section 161, Crimes Ordinance): Dennis obtained data from his company’s computer with the intention to commit a criminal offence (i.e. assault). He is likely to be subject to a heavier penalty as secretly downloading company data involves a breach of trust against his employer.
- Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (Section 39, Offences Against the Person Ordinance): “Assault” can be committed by words alone if the content of the words are those that would cause an apprehension of immediate violence to another person. Psychiatric injury falls under the category of “actual bodily harm”. From his actions, it may be viewed that Dennis was reckless in making frightening and unsolicited calls, satisfying the mental element of the crime. Put together, Dennis’ action of calling random phone numbers at night is likely to be convicted for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
If Dennis is found to have a recognised mental illness, the court may assign him to mandatory medical treatment. Due to his role in helping Dennis accomplish the criminal act, Fred may also be charged as an accomplice (accessory) to the assault offence.
Disclaimer: The article is for reference only and should not be construed or relied on as legal advice in whatsoever manner. Please engage a solicitor to seek formal legal advice. LegalClarus does not provide legal advice.