A Hong Kong decorator has been jailed for eight years for splashing drain cleaner over his wife in a horrific attack that left her feeling her life was “completely shattered”.
The High Court heard Kwok Sau-lan, 50, was disfigured and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her husband Lau Wing-kau, 58, attacked her in their bedroom on October 15, 2018, accusing her of having an affair.
A victim impact assessment revealed that Kwok could not sleep for months and needed her family’s company when she returned to the bedroom as she felt emotionally overwhelmed with intense fear and experienced flashbacks and panic attacks.
A clinical psychologist who interviewed Kwok also recorded that she felt “very angry that the defendant had totally ruined her life”. Kwok also regarded her life to be “completely shattered” as she was devastated to look at her disfigured face and was fearful of social contact, according to the psychologist.
Lau pleaded guilty last week to one count of throwing corrosive fluid with intent and presented a mitigation letter from his wife as he sought a lenient sentence for what he described as an “out-of- character attack”.
But deputy High Court judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng on Wednesday observed that the victim’s plea was not made out of forgiveness. She mainly expressed her wish that her husband could still spend time with their four adult children and recognised her husband’s past contribution to the family.
“The victim is still angry at the defendant for what he did to her,” Chan said. “The seriousness [of the crime] is reflected in the maximum sentence that the court may pass, that is life imprisonment.”
Citing a Court of Appeal judgment, the judge said “acid throwing cannot be resorted to as a substitute for marriage counselling”.
“The court has to make it clear that acid throwing is a vile offence which is resorted to far too readily in Hong Kong,” Chan continued, quoting from the appeal court. “And for that reason, the court has to consider deterrence as an element of the sentence.”
Chan said it was not a spontaneous attack of an angry husband, as Lau had a clear intention to cause horrific injuries and made no attempt to help when his wife screamed in pain.
He concluded that the strongest mitigating factor was Lau’s timely plea and prior clear criminal record, for which he granted a full one-third discount to the starting point of the sentence he put at 12 years.