LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1620/96-97
> (The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1
LegCo Panel on Security
Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 13 January 1997 at 10:45 am
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LO Suk-ching
Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Members attending :
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Members absent :
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon Margaret NG
Public Officers attending :
- Agenda Item III
- Mr Alex FONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 2
- Mr Kelvin PANG
- Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services
- Mr Ian DEANE
- Senior Assistant Solicitor General
- Mr Gilbert KO
- Assistant Secretary for Security
- Agenda Items IV and V
- Mr HUI Ki-on
- Commissioner of Police
- Mr LAU Yuk-kuen
- Director of Crime and Security
Royal Hong Kong Police Force
- Mrs Carrie YAU
- Deputy Secretary for Security 1
Clerk in attendance :
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1
Staff in attendance :
- Miss Salumi CHAN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 898/97/97(01))
The next meeting would be held on Friday, 14 February 1997 at 8:30 am to discuss the following items :
- Follow-up on Permanent Residency after 1997;
- Security measures for the Handover Ceremony and protection for the Chief Executive designate of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and
- Transfer of defence responsibility.
II. Proposed visits by the Panel
2. The Panel agreed to pay visits to the Immigration Department and the Fire Services Department in the coming months.
(Post meeting note : The visit to the Fire Services Department is scheduled for 15 March 1997 (Saturday) and the visit to the Immigration Department is scheduled for 8 April 1997 (Tuesday).)
III. Establishment of a Statutory Board of Review, Long Term Prison Sentences
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 898/96-97(02))
Consequences of not having the relevant legislation
3. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) briefed members on the main points of the paper which set out the Administrations plan to introduce legislation to make the existing Board of Review, Long Term Prison Sentences (BOR, LTPS) a statutory body, and to improve the operation and fairness of the existing system. The Chairman enquired of the consequences if the legislation to implement the proposals could not be passed before 1 July 1997.
4. In response, Deputy Secretary for Security(2) and Senior Assistant Solicitor General made the following points :
- the BOR, LTPS would continue to operate as an advisory body and would not be a statutory body as proposed;
- there would be no legal basis for introducing the punitive tariff period into discretionary life sentences; and
- under Article 48(12) of the Basic Law, the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region could pardon persons convicted of criminal offences or commute their penalties. The remission of sentences after the change of sovereignty would be a matter for the CE. There was no question about the validity of the sentences for those detained at Her Majestys pleasure (HMP). The naming of the sentences would have to be changed. This issue could be dealt with in the adaptation of laws exercise.
Violations of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383)
5. Members asked if there were any violations of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance in handling the HMP cases. They were concerned that young murderers detained under HMP had been imprisoned for a long time without knowing when they would be released.
6. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) explained that young murderers detained under HMP were prisoners serving indeterminate sentences. There were 20 such cases. (There were three other cases involving adult offenders who were found not guilty by reason of insanity upon conviction and were ordered to be detained under HMP.) Their cases were reviewed by the BOR, LTPS every year until the prisoners reached the age of 21 and every two years thereafter. The purpose of the review was to make recommendations to the Governor on possible remission under the Letters Patent. The Board had reviewed 25 cases so far. Between 1992 and 1996, the Board had recommended 20% of the reviewed cases to be changed from indeterminate sentences to determinate sentences. In reaching the recommendations, the Board would balance the interests of the prisoners and the society. The Board had a responsibility to ensure that prisoners given determinate sentences would not pose a danger to the society when released. Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services supplemented that among the 20 HMP cases, the longest serving prisoner had been imprisoned for 16 years.
7. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) further explained that under the Administrations proposals, the Chief Justice would make recommendations on the appropriate tariff-period to be set in respect of all HMP cases, in addition to discretionary life cases. The BOR, LTPS would then be able to review whether those prisoners should be released upon the expiry of the tariff period. The proposal would provide the BOR, LTPS with an additional tool to discharge its sentence reviewing function. He emphasized that every review would be based on the merits of individual case. In the Administrations view, the existing handling of HMP prisoners and the Administrations proposals were not in breach of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
Length of sentences of HMP cases
8. Members asked if the Administration would make a decision before the handover on the length of sentences of the 20 HMP cases.
9. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) said that the 20 HMP cases were no different from other prisoners serving indeterminate sentences in terms of the uncertainty they had to face. It would not be fair to single this group out for special treatment. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) said that he was willing to meet the families of the 20 HMP cases to explain to them the proposals.
Factors for review
10. Members enquired of the factors that the BOR, LTPS would consider in reviewing the HMP cases. They were concerned that review results would be affected by unknown factors after 1997. In this connection, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung tabled a letter from the BOR, LTPS to a prisoner in Pik Uk Correctional Institution. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo cited another case where the prisoner was told that he was not given a determinate sentence because he did not need to provide financial support to his family.
(Post meeting note : The letter tabled by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung was circulated to absent members under LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 941/96-97.)
11. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) said that a pamphlet on the BOR, LTPS listed 17 factors that the Board could consider in reviewing cases. The factors included the nature of offence, criminal history, remorse, response to counselling, age, psychological factors, psychiatric condition, performance in prison, medical factors of the prisoners and opinions of the trial judge.
12. Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services explained that the review process was not a closed system. Some prisoners had written to the BOR, LTPS. Members of the BOR, LTPS had also paid visits to prisons.
13. On the individual case cited by Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo, Deputy Secretary for Security(2) undertook to check with the secretariat of the BOR, LTPS and to provide members with a written reply.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration has advised that, as regards the case mentioned by Mr CHENG Kar-foo, the Administration has thoroughly check the records but has not been able to identify the prisoner, in the absence of more detailed information.)
Differential treatment in the review of adult and young prisoners serving indeterminate sentence
14. In response to members questions, Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services advised that, unlike HMP prisoners whose cases would be reviewed by the BOR, LTPS every year until they reached the age of 21, the sentences of adult prisoners would only be reviewed after they had been imprisoned for five years.
Discrepancy between new and existing cases
15. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo noted that the Administration had proposed differential treatment for new and existing discretionary life sentence cases as stated in paragraphs 12(b) and 15 of the paper. In respect of new cases, a trial judge would be required to submit a written report to the Governor setting out any special considerations or circumstances for future review purposes. For existing cases, there is no requirement for the Chief Justice to give any special considerations or circumstances. Mr CHENG considered that special considerations or circumstances for review should also be set out in the report to the Governor for existing cases.
16. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) said that the Administration would consider whether new and existing discretionary life sentence cases should be treated the same.
Communication of review results
17. Members considered that the BOR, LTPS should inform prisoners of the factors which were considered in the reviews and the areas for improvement. They also considered that the BOR, LTPS should convey review results to families of HMP prisoners in addition to the prisoners themselves.
18. Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services said that prisoners were notified of the review results. Family members of the prisoners could contact the officer-in-charge of the prison if they wanted to know about the review results.
19. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) undertook to convey members suggestions in paragraph 17 above to the BOR, LTPS.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration has advised that it has conveyed to the Board the suggestions referred to in paragraphs 17 to 19.) Adm
20. Mr Lawrence YUM Sin-ling asked whether there would be a channel to appeal on the review results of the BOR, LTPS.
21. Deputy Secretary for Security(2) pointed out that the BOR, LTPS was an independent body. The proposal to make the BOR, LTPS a statutory body would enhance its transparency. The Administration also proposed to increase its independence and transparency by adding a Deputy Chairman who would also be a Judge of the High Court and by removing government officials from the Board. He, therefore, considered it a cumbersome structure if the Administration was to put in place an appeal channel on top of the BOR, LTPS in the proposed legislation.
22. In response to the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Security(2) advised that the relevant legislation was being drafted. The Administration would bring forward the legislation as soon as possible.
IV. Crime situation in 1996
(LegCo Paper CB(2) 927/96-97)
23. As Mr James TO Kun-sun had an important commitment, Mrs Selina CHOW, Deputy Chairman, took the chair.
24. The Commissioner of Police then gave an account of the crime situation in 1996 as compared with that in 1995. Members complimented the Police for achieving an improvement in the crime situation in 1996.
Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 455)
25. In addition to the crime statistics tabled at the meeting, the Commissioner of Police gave the following statistics on the application of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (Ordinance) in 1996 :
- 28 court orders were obtained to require witnesses to furnish information to assist investigation;
- over $5 million of proceeds were frozen;
- three cases of money laundering were convicted; and
- the appeal to increase the penalty in nine cases were successful.
26. Deputy Secretary for Security(1) said that out of the 356 new posts created in the Police in 1996/97, 232 front-line staff would be deployed to strengthen the regional and district anti-triad units. The Administration would revert to the Security Panel on its review on the provisions of the Ordinance at an appropriate timing.
27. Ms Emily LAU Wai-hing requested for a more detailed report on the application of the Ordinance and its review. The Deputy Chairman asked the Administration to provide in writing information including the following :
- how the Ordinance was applied;
- when the Administration would review the provisions of the Ordinance; and
- what were the areas that needed improvement.
28. The Commissioner of Police said that between September 1989 and the end of 1996, more than $444 million of proceeds were confiscated and frozen under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance (Cap. 405). There were 2,574 young people under 21 arrested for drug-related offences in 1996, a decrease of 10.5% when compared to the number of cases in 1995. However, the Administration was still concerned about the problem and would introduce legislation to impose heavier penalty to those who exploited young people in trafficking drug.
29. Noting that the indecent assault cases was increased by about 10.5% in 1996, members enquired of the preventive measures taken by the Police.
30. The Commissioner of Police responded that the issue was discussed in the Fight Crime Committee. The Administration would strengthen sex education to young people and the Police would increase their presence in public places.
Crime reporting procedures
31. Mr Fred LI Wah-ming was concerned that there might be under-reporting of crime due to the crime reporting procedures. They urged the Police to review and improve the procedures. In this connection, Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin cited cases where citizens were discouraged by police officers from reporting crime. The Deputy Chairman urged the Police to conduct a customer satisfaction survey on the crime reporting procedures with a view to increase efficiency.
32. The Commissioner of Police said that the Police was discussing with its consultant as to how a customer satisfaction survey should be conducted. The Police had begun computerization which would help streamline the crime reporting procedures. However, he stressed that there was a need for the Police to take statements from witnesses to obtain information for investigation. He urged the public to make complaints to senior officers if they encountered individual irresponsible police who discouraged them from reporting crime.
Focus of work
33. Whilst noting the improvement in crime situation in 1996, members asked if the Police had adjusted the order of priority in fighting crime.
34. The Commissioner of Police responded that 1997 would be a busy year for the Police with the Handover Ceremony and the 1997 World Bank - IMF Annual Meetings to be held in Hong Kong. Priority would be accorded to the following crimes in 1997 :
crime involving illegal immigrants
crime involving drug
crime involving firearms
Co-operation with China
35. Regarding the co-operation with China to prevent crime, the Commissioner of Police advised that the Police had maintained a good working relationship with the Chinese side. Both sides co-operated in dealing with crimes such as those relating to robberies, illegal immigrants and drug trafficking. The Chinese side returned 20 wanted criminals to Hong Kong in 1996. However, due to different judicial systems between the two sides, Hong Kong could not return any criminals to China. The Commissioner of Police said that more study was needed to sort out the problem of extradition.
Bank robbery and goldsmith shop robbery
36. In response to members questions, the Commissioner of Police said that the crime rates of both bank robbery and goldsmith shop robbery decreased in 1996. One of the main reasons for the decrease was that both banks and goldsmith shops had stepped up their security measures such as replacing open counters with closed counters. In nearly 60% of the bank robbery cases in 1996, the offenders went away empty-handed. However, small goldsmith shops which had not improved their security measures became targets of robbery. The Crime Prevention Bureau would continue to work on these shops to advise them on security measures.
37. The Deputy Chairman was concerned that the increase in both homicide as well as wounding and serious assault cases in 1996 were due to more frequent domestic violence. She urged the Police to be more equipped in all aspects to deal with domestic violence cases.
38. The Commissioner of Police confirmed that many of the homicide cases were caused by domestic disputes. The Police worked closely with other government departments, e.g. the Social Welfare Department and the Education Department in handling cases of domestic violence. The Police had also stepped up training for police officers in handling victims in such cases.
39. Upon members request, the Commissioner of Police undertook to provide figures on commercial crime and the breakdown of drug-trafficking intercepted at the immigration entry points and inside Hong Kong.
(Post-meeting note : The relevant figures provided by the Administration are at Annex.)
V. Commission of crimes by illegal immigrants
40. Due to an overrun of the meeting, the Deputy Chairman suggested and members agreed to defer the discussion of "Commission of crimes by illegal immigrants" to the next meeting to be held on 14 February 1997.
VI. Close of meeting
41. The meeting closed at 1:00 pm.
18 March 1997
Last Updated on 21 August 1998