on 19 March 1998
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Problem of Domestic Violence
This paper informs Members of the measures taken by the Government to tackle the problem of domestic violence.
2. Wife battering and child abuse are the two most prominent forms of domestic violence. As regards child abuse cases, they may also happen outside a domestic environment and may be caused by non-family members. Both wife battering and child abuse cases warrant the concerted efforts from various professionals, such as social workers, medical staff and the Police.
Extent of the Problem
3. According to statistics kept by the Police, the number of reported cases of wife battering and child abuse in the past five years is as follows:
|Year||No. of Wife|
|No of Child|
* Figures of 1993-95 cover offences of wounding and serious assault only. From 1996 onwards, additional offences of criminal intimidation, criminal damage, unlawful detention and common assault are included.
# Offences include serious assault, ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of child, rape and incest, etc.
Tackling the Problem of Wife Battering and Child Abuse
4. The Government adopt a three-pronged approach to tackle the problem of wife battering and child abuse -
- preventing its occurrence through family life education and publicity;
- enforcing the law by arresting the offenders; and
- protecting and assisting the victims through counselling and provision of various welfare services.
5. As wife battering and child abuse are multi-faceted problems, professional input from different disciplines is required. To strengthen co-ordination and co-operation among concerned parties in tackling the problem of wife battering, the Working Group on Battered Spouse (WGBS), comprising representatives from relevant Government departments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), was set up in April 1995 by the Social Welfare Department (SWD). In February 1996, WGBS published the "Multi-Disciplinary Guidelines on Handling of Battered Spouse Cases* which sets out detailed procedures for various disciplines to follow in handling such cases.
6. As regards child abuse cases, a Working Group on Child Abuse (WGCA) was set up by SWD in 1983. The Group, comprising members from relevant Government departments and NGOs, is tasked to enhance service co-ordination and devise measures to improve the handling of child abuse cases. WGCA published the revised "Procedures for Handling Child Abuse Cases* and "Procedures for Handling Child Sexual Abuse Cases* in November 1993 and February 1996 respectively.
7. At the working level, there is close liaison between Government departments and NGOs in handling wife battering and child abuse cases. For example, when such cases are reported to the Police, they will liaise with SWD/ NGOs to provide counselling for the victim and will immediately make arrangements for the victims to be sent to a hospital for medical treatment. Similarly, SWD will liaise with the Police if they come across these cases. The Hospital Authority (HA) also refer such cases to medical social workers and the Police for appropriate actions.
Family Life Education and Publicity
8. SWD and NGOs organise Family Life Education (FLE) programmes to promote the importance of family life and enhance parenting knowledge. In 1998, the theme of FLE publicity campaign is "Care for your family* with emphasis on the management of marital stresses.
9. Apart from FLE, WGBS has also launched a series of publicity programmes, including the production of TV API and posters, to educate the public on the destructive forces of violence. WGBS is currently liaising with the Radio Television Hong Kong on the production of a special TV/ Radio programme series on the problem of spouse battering. These programmes will highlight the salient aspects of the problem, e.g., seeking help is a positive measure to face the problem and spouse battering is an offence subject to penalty under the law.
10. On the prevention of child abuse, WGCA has also conducted various publicity campaigns throughout the years. In 1996 and 1997, the focus was on teaching young children to protect themselves against sexual abuse and promoting awareness of parents of the problem. In 1998, the publicity campaign will focus on arousing public concern on child abuse and a stronger sense of responsibility on its prevention. The Education Department also assist by introducing new Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools in December 1997 and developing a teaching kit and educational software on prevention of sexual abuse for schools in early 1999.
11. We have a number of pieces of legislation in place to protect victims of wife battering and child abuse -
- the Domestic Violence Ordinance (Cap 189) provides protection to victims of domestic violence. Section 3 of the Ordinance stipulates that a person (the applicant) may apply to the District Court, if he or she or his or her child has been molested by his or her spouse (the other party), for an injunction to restrain the other party from molesting the applicant and any child living with the applicant, exclude the other party from the matrimonial home, and require the other party to permit the applicant to enter and remain in the matrimonial home;
- the Offences Against the Persons Ordinance (Cap 212) contains provisions for wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, etc.. The penalties for these offences vary depending on their gravity; and
- the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200) contains provisions to protect children from sexual abuse. For serious offences, e.g. rape, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. In May 1997, the maximum imprisonment terms of certain sexual offences were increased, e.g. the maximum penalty for incest with women between the age of 13 and 16 has been increased from 7 years to 20 and that for indecent assault towards a child under 16 was increased from 5 years to 10.
12. Apart from enforcement actions, the Police will also -
- protect the victims from further attack;
- ensure that the victims will not be subject to unnecessary trauma or stress by taking special care in the investigation process;
- assign a Police officer of the same sex as the victim to conduct the interview; and
- in the case of wife battering, issue a Domestic Incident Notice which aims to serve as a deterrent by drawing the alleged offender's attention to the legislation that he may have contravened. The victim will also be given a copy of the Victims of Domestic Violence Advice Card as to what courses of action are open to them and the Legal Aid Referral Card to ensure they are aware of the legal aid services available.
13. The Police fully recognise the importance of making front-line officers more sensitive in attending to wife battering and child abuse cases. Efforts on this front include the following -
Support for Victims
- a training video on the Police procedures for handling domestic violence was produced in 1995 and is used by each Police district during training sessions. All districts are required to ensure that their officers are briefed on the procedures during the training sessions;
- the Multi-disciplinary Guidelines on the Handling of Battered Spouse Cases are covered in the syllabus for new recruits at the Police Training School. Up till the end of January 1998, about 120 Probationary Inspectors and 750 Police Constable recruits have been trained;
- the Police and the Education Officer of Harmony House (NGO) have jointly conducted regular training sessions on domestic violence for front-line Police officers. Up to the end of January 1998, about 1, 600 Police officers have attended such courses; and
- on-going training programmes are organised for Police officers to keep them abreast of the procedures and developments in handling child abuse cases, e.g. seminars given by overseas experts on child abuse, training on video-interviewing of witnesses, etc.
14. The following supportive services have been provided to assist victims of wife battering and child abuse cases -
- SWD and NGOs will provide counselling and assistance to victims of wife battering. Financial assistance, child care service, temporary refuge, referrals for legal aid service, clinical psychology service and housing assistance will also be provided where necessary;
- the Victim's Charter published in October 1996 sets out the rights and obligations of victims of crime. Copies of the Charter have been made widely available in Police stations, public hospitals, SWD's District Offices and Courts, etc.;
- internal guidelines were developed by the Hospital Authority to facilitate health care providers to promptly recognise and provide services to child abuse and wife battering victims both in terms of their medical and psychological needs;
- for child abuse cases, SWD and NGOs will provide supportive services, such as, home help, day or residential child care services and clinical psychology services to abused children and their families;
- the Child Protection Special Investigation Team was set up by the Police and SWD in December 1995 to conduct joint video recorded interviews with victims of child abuse. Such interviews would take place in a specially designed suite with a homely environment;
- since the amendments to the Evidence Ordinance (amended in July 1995) and the Criminal Procedure Ordinance (amended in July 1995 and June 1996 respectively), the trauma of child abuse victims giving evidence in Court can be avoided by allowing video-taped testimony to be produced as evidence in Court and permitting them to testify or be cross-examined in Court by a live television link; and
- a Witness Support Programme administered by SWD, with assistance from the Police, provides for child witnesses and the mentally handicapped to be accompanied by independent support persons throughout the testimony.
15. We believe a multiplinary approach is essential to tackle the problem of wife battering and child abuses. In future, emphasis will continue to be made on the prevention of such cases through family life education and publicity, the enforcement of the relevant legislation by prosecuting the offenders where appropriate and the provision of assistance to victims to relieve their pains.