VII. Possible criminal charges against a stalker under the Public Order Ordinance

A. Disorderly conduct in a public place

Any person who in any public place behaves in a noisy or disorderly manner, or uses, or distributes or displays any writing containing, threatening, abusive or insulting words with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be caused, is guilty of an offence contrary to section 17B(2) of the Public Order Ordinance ( Cap. 245 ) and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 2 of Schedule 8 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance ( Cap. 221 ) (currently $5,000) and to imprisonment for 12 months.

This section provides a potential response to a stalker who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to cause a breach of the peace. An example is HKSAR v Chan Kwai Hung . The defendant behaved in a disorderly manner in a public place by positioning a black recycle bag containing a mobile phone with a camera lens under the skirt of a female. There were a number of people nearby, any one of whom could have discovered what he was doing. Had they done so, the court was satisfied that what the defendant did would have caused sufficient outrage to make it likely that one or more of them would not confine themselves simply to the force required to effect the arrest of the appellant. A witness to the event grabbed the straps of the bag from Chan in order to stop him. Chan was convicted after trial and sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment. His appeal against conviction was dismissed, but his sentence was altered to a Community Service Order of 160 hours.

Section 17B(2) affords some protection to the victim of a stalker where the stalker’s conduct amounts to an actual or threatened breach of the peace. It does not, however, address cases in which a stalker simply follows the victim or contacts the victim through electronic communication systems. Such systems distance the victim from the stalker. In neither case is there disorderly conduct in a public place. Persistently contacting the victim through electronic communication systems, however, may involve an offence contrary to section 20 of the Summary Offences Ordinance .