The Fanling Conspiracy

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Ben and Dylan helped as much as they could to prepare for the sentencing hearing. They poured through precedent cases, and prepared character references from a number of people, including Tyler’s old law professor in England, a number of heads of charities in England and Hong Kong, and previous employers. They met with Richard and Peachey on a couple of occasions. By the time the hearing came round, they felt they were ready.

Richard’s mitigation was excellent and well delivered. The judge conceded that Tyler had been previously a man of excellent character, of good standing in the community, and his referenced were very impressive.

Against that was the fact that he had been found guilty of murder of a member of the Hong Kong judiciary. If the judiciary was to flourish in Hong Kong post-1997, everyone involved in the system had to have confidence in it. If judges feared for their lives because of the decisions they had to make, the system would collapse. The defendant was an officer of the court, he had certain responsibilities to it. His failure to honour those responsibilities was sad and unforgivable.

He sentenced Tyler to twenty years imprisonment.

Again there were screams of despair in Judge Yeung’s courtroom. Having found Tyler guilty, however, Ben knew that the judge had little choice. In fact, he had been quite generous, twenty-five years had been a live possibility. It was however difficult to comfort anyone with that thought.

In a way, it helped that Tyler was a lawyer. He knew he had been facing at least twenty years. He took the sentencing stoically. The appeal had been filed, and they had to work towards that. Tyler finally agreed to instruct a new firm of lawyers for the appeal, a firm specializing in criminal law. Ben still went to see him every other day.

The next few weeks following the sentencing were very depressing for everyone concerned with Roberts McCann. Ben actually flew to England to tell Tyler’s family what had happened. They did not take it well, especially the old mother. Although they did not say so, Ben thought they blamed him for it all. That was OK, Ben mostly agreed with them. They had been aware of the charge but had been told throughout by Ben not to worry, that Tyler was obviously not guilty, and justice would prevail. He had difficulty in persuading them that justice would prevail on appeal. He had known the family for over twenty years. He promised them that he would get Tyler released.

Business had to continue. Dylan was making the rounds of the Magistrates Courts, doing a lot of Tyler’s work. Ben plodded through his personal injury cases, even settling a couple, which brought the firm some much needed income. The staff were depressed, Tyler was the most popular member of the firm. Ben also felt that most of the staff blamed him and Dylan for instigating the foolish plan in the first place. Indeed, when Ben thought about it, he wondered how they could have been so stupid and naïve, influencing a judge like that. The only fact that Ben was sure of was that the real killer remained out there. He asked Stan Baxter to continue his investigations.

One matter threatened to lift the depression. The firm had received a letter from the court advising that Judge Lee would deliver his verdict on the Tang Clan case on 30th June. Ben had virtually forgotten about the case in the aftermath of Tyler’s trial. Now, despite himself, he started thinking about the case again. There was little to do so far as preparation was concerned, simply turn up on the day and hope for the best. If they won, the judge would likely make a costs order in their favour, which would always be subject to review should the Government wish to take it further. That would be for another day.

Ben stood in Joe Bananas with Dylan and Big Bob the night before judgment was to be delivered.

“Cheer up”, said Bob, “tomorrow you could both be millionaires!”

“That’s true, Bob. If we win, you’ll have to come to our celebration party. See if you can break your world record for a yard of ale”, said Dylan.

“No problem. I’ve been in training.”

“Tell you what, Ben”, said Dylan, “if we win, I’ll buy you two prostitutes.”

“No thank you, I rather have a relationship with a woman I don’t have to pay at the end of the night.”

“Ah, Ben”, said Dylan, “we all pay in some way. Who is it then, who’s the lucky girl? Is it Mandy or Peachey?”

“Frankly, I don’t know”, admitted Ben. “Probably Mandy. Peachey’s a nice girl, but I think she’s just in it for the fun. I want more than that.”

“Fun sounds OK to me, Ben”, said Bob.

“Too right, Bob”, said Dylan. “And Peachey’s not a tart.”

“Careful”, said Ben, “you could be talking about my future wife here.” They all laughed.

“Sorry to remind you, but you have a wife”, said Dylan.

“Yes, eight thousand miles away. And she doesn’t want me.”

“Well, either Mandy or Peachey would be an improvement, what do you say Bob?” asked Dylan.

“Of course.” Bob had felt the rough side of Debbie’s tongue on too many occasions to be fond of Debbie. “Whichever one you dump, send her to me.”

“Will do”, said Ben. “Ramos, another beer.”

They carried on till 10.00pm, when Bob suggested Club Highway. Ben knew it was time to go. Despite his protestations, he dragged Dylan away too. The next day was hopefully going to be the biggest day in their lives, Ben felt it would be nice to be able to remember it.

They both woke up the next day with severe hangovers, but with a sense of mounting excitement. They made it into the cafeteria by 8.30am, and ate a hearty breakfast. Richard joined them, as did Peachey. They were also excited. They had their fees paid no matter what, but wanted to win, not so much for client’s sake, or their reputation, but for the sake of the firm. They had all grown close over the past few months, and it had been a team effort. Finally, Jacob and Wai arrived on the Tang Clan bus. They joined in the chatter until it was time to go upstairs.

“Judge Lee is waiting”, intoned Richard, solemnly.

They caught the familiar elevator to court 27. Ben caught the eye of Chan Chi Wah and ignored him. He put his tie straight and entered the courtroom. It was packed. The Tang Clan took up all of the public gallery, there was about forty inside court, with maybe another twenty outside. Ronnie Yuen was in his place with his team, including Mandy, who approached Ben as he sat down.

“Good luck”, she whispered. “Whatever happens, I want to see you tonight.” Ben smiled at her. He had a decision to make. Wai, Jacob and Dylan took their places beside him. The court was ready. Silence. There were two loud knocks and Judge Lee entered the court. Everyone stood up, the lawyers bowed to the judge, who returned the bow. He sat down and looked at the public gallery. Then he began.

“First of all”, said the judge, “I would like to thank a number of people who have helped this very long trial run smoothly. All Counsel have been of considerable help to me on difficult areas of law, I thank them for that. Instructing solicitors on both sides have had a difficult task as there were so many documents in this case, and I am sure they have cursed me more than once when I asked for further copies of this and that. The court interpreters have had a difficult job with ancient Chinese language, and coped admirably. I thank most of all, however, my clerk Rebecca Wong, whom has put in long hours throughout the proceedings in an effort to enable me to understand the evidence presented. Many thanks to her.” He took a deep breath.

“I have prepared a written judgment. It is extremely lengthy. I do not propose to read it all out this morning, it would be a waste of time and money. The parties can study the same later at their leisure. The following, in brief, are my findings.” Ben and Dylan held their breath and looked at each other. Here it comes, Ben thought.

“The Plaintiffs were and still are the owners of Fanling temple.”

“Yes!” whispered Dylan through his teeth. But that is not good enough, thought Ben. The judge continued.

“The said temple is not the subject of a charitable trust.”

Oh my God, thought Ben.

They were just about there. He stared wildly around the court. He just about caught the judge’s final sentence. Dylan was already bouncing up and down in his seat.

”The Plaintiffs are entitled forthwith to the monies held in court by the Judicial Accountant, presently totaling around HK$550 million, and their legal costs of the entire proceedings, from the 2nd Defendant.”

Bedlam ensued.

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