Village house owners given jail sentence for failing to comply with removal orders
Two co-owners were sentenced to a total of two months and three weeks' imprisonment at the Fanling Magistrates' Courts on October 17 for failing to comply with removal orders, requiring the demolition of two adjoining unauthorised four-storey village houses, issued under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123).
Earlier inspections conducted by staff of the Buildings Department (BD) revealed that a four-storey building was under construction at Pan Chung Village, Tai Po. The Lands Department has not granted any approval to the building, which is not a New Territories Exempted House under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap 121). The building was constructed without prior approval from the Building Authority, contravening section 14(1) of the Buildings Ordinance, and is therefore an unauthorised building. A removal order was then issued to the two co-owners of the building under section 24(1) of the Buildings Ordinance.
Later, the two owners built another four-storey building adjacent to the earlier unauthorised building, again without having first obtained prior approval from the Building Authority in contravention of the Buildings Ordinance. Another removal order was therefore issued to the two owners under section 24(1) of the Buildings Ordinance.
As the owners failed to demolish the unauthorised buildings upon the expiry of the removal orders, the BD instigated prosecution against them. The owners pleaded guilty at the Fanling Magistrates' Courts and the court imposed a sentence of two months' imprisonment suspended for two years on both defendants, plus a total fine of $149,400, on November 23 last year.
Further inspection conducted by staff of the BD on August 22 revealed that the unauthorised buildings had not been removed. The BD instigated prosecution against the owners. The owners pleaded guilty at the Fanling Magistrates' Courts on October 17 but refused to remove the unauthorised buildings. The Magistrate sentenced them to three weeks' imprisonment, in addition to the two months' imprisonment, running consecutively, because the owners committed the related offence during the suspended period of the last conviction and that the heavy fine imposed in the last conviction could not act as a deterrent.
"Unauthorised building works may adversely affect the structural and fire safety of a building, leading to serious consequences. Building owners should seek professional advice before carrying out any building works in their premises," a spokesman for the BD emphasised.
Failure to comply with a removal order without reasonable excuse is a serious offence under the Buildings Ordinance. The maximum penalty upon conviction is one year's imprisonment and a fine of $200,000, and a further fine of $20,000 for each day that the offence continues. Land owners must not defy the law and should hold full responsibility to ensure the safety of their buildings.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017