Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Security
Subcommittee on Overcrowdedness in Penal Institutions

Information Sought by Members at a meeting
on 21 October 1997

Q1Referring to the statistics on non-custodial sentencing options taken by the courts in the past 5 years, analyses on -

(a) the number of young offenders arrested, the number of prosecutions initiated, the number of being imprisoned, the number of being sentenced to non-custodial options and the number of acquittal; and

(b) the number who have repeated an offence as compared with young prisoners who have repeated an offence.

A1. (a) The available statistics are at Annex A.
(b) The available statistics on average reconviction rates are as follows:

Year Young offenders in various correctional programmes Offenders in probation order scheme
1992 22.2% n/a
1993 25.6% n/a
1994 26.7% n/a
1995 22.4% 44.9%
1996 23.5% 43.2%

n/a not available

Q2The report of a recent survey conducted by the City University of Hong Kong regarding the implications and effectiveness of the Community Service Order Scheme.

A2An executive summary of the research study is at Annex B. Copies of the summary report are available from the Clerk to Subcommittee for Members who are interested.

Q3Extracts of legislative provisions under which prosecutions can be initiated for illegal remaining, taking up illegal employment and breach of condition of stay.

A3Illegal immigrants (IIs) found to be engaged in illegal employment are prosecuted for remaining in Hong Kong without the authority of the Director, under section 38(1)(b) of the Immigration Ordinance. Visitors, who entered Hong Kong legally subject to conditions of stay which prohibit them from working without the Director's permission, are prosecuted for breach of a condition of stay should they take up illegal employment, under section 41 of the Immigration Ordinance. Extracts of the relevant legislation are at Annex C.

Q4The number of Mainland illegal immigrants who have repeated the offence of taking up illegal employment in Hong Kong.

A4Mainland IIs found to be working illegally in Hong Kong are sometimes found to have committed other criminal offences and were prosecuted for multiple offences. Also, IIs may be prosecuted under section 38(1)(b) for reasons other than working illegally in Hong Kong. As at 31 October 1997, of the 411 Mainland IIs who were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment under section 38(1)(b), 162 had previous convictions under the same section.

Q5The category of offences that are considered to be suitable for the day in prison programme and weekend detention, and the estimated number of such prisoners.

A5We understand that in some countries, weekend detention and " day in prison " programmes are applied to prisoners sentenced to short-term imprisonment (e.g. not more than one month). As at 31 October 1997, there were only 18 prisoners in Hong Kong serving sentences of one month or less. Therefore, the impact of applying weekend detention and " day in prison " programmes to these prisoners would only have a negligible impact on relieving prison overcrowding.

Reply to Members' question about the possibility of applying the existing foster care scheme to young offenders:

At present, foster care service is provided mainly to children who, due to family problems (e.g. illness or death in the family), require care in a normal family environment under the supervision of foster care workers. About 93% of the children under foster care are below the age of 12. We have carefully considered the possibility of extending this scheme to cover young offenders and concluded that it is not a feasible option. Not only would this option have a negligible effect on relieving prison overcrowding, it would also be difficult to recruit foster parents for young offenders. Moreover, it would be better for young offenders to receive guidance and rehabilitation programmes provided by professionals in a more structured environment than foster care provided by non-professionals.

Annex A

Young Offenders

Year Number
Those cautioned under Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme or granted probation orders or community service orders Those admitted to correctional institutions Those acquitted or given other non-custodial penalties such as fine, suspended sentence etc.
1992 14 189 39 % 9 % 52 %
1993 15 377 42 % 10 % 48 %
1994 16 205 45 % 13 % 42 %
1995 15 684 47 % 13 % 40 %
1996 14 420 55 % 13 % 32 %

Note : Detailed breakdown of statistics on non-custodial sentences and acquittal in respect of the above persons are