For Discussion
on 2 December 1996

LegCo Panel on Security
Problem of Wife Battering


This paper informs Members of the measures taken by the Police, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) and the Hospital Authority (HA) to tackle the problem of wife battering.


2. Wife battering is the most prominent form of domestic violence, which commonly refers to the use of force by a man to cause bodily injuries, psychological, mental or sexual abuse to his spouse. Concerted efforts from various professions, such as social workers, medical staff and the Police, are required to protect and assist victims of wife battering.

Extent of the Problem

3. According to the statistics kept by SWD, the number of cases of wife battering in the past five years are as follows:


No of Cases











Tackling the Problem of Wife Battering

4. Government adopts a three-pronged approach to tackle the problem of domestic violence, including wife battering: firstly, to prevent its occurrence through family life education and publicity; secondly, to arrest the offenders; and thirdly, to protect and assist the victims through counselling and provision of various welfare services.

5. In order to strengthen service coordination and emphasise multi-disciplinary efforts to tackle the problem, the Government set up a Working Group on Battered Spouse in April 1995, comprising representatives from relevant Government departments, HA, and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). The Working Group drew up the "Multi-Disciplinary Guidelines on Handling of Battered Spouse Cases" in February this year, setting out detailed procedures for various disciplines to follow in handling such cases. A summary of the respective roles of the Police, SWD and HA is set out at Annex A.

Service Co-ordination

6. There is close liaison among the Police, SWD and HA in handling wife battering cases. When a wife battering case is reported to the Police, they will liaise with SWD to provide counselling for the victim and will immediately make arrangements for her to be sent to a hospital for medical examination and treatment. Statistics on Police referrals of such cases to various organizations are at Annex B. Upon referral, SWD will provide counselling and assistance. Financial assistance, child care service, temporary refuge, referrals for legal aid and housing assistance are provided to the victims where necessary. Similarly, SWD will liaise with the Police if they come across wife battering cases. The HA also refer such cases to medical social workers and the Police for appropriate services and actions.

7. The Working Group on Battered Spouse also launched a pilot project in April 1996 to assess the feasibility of establishing a centralised information system to help to gauge the size of the problem. Subject to the outcome of this pilot project, the system could be established by next April.

Training and Public Education

8. The Police Force has enhanced its liaison with relevant government departments, NGOs and women’s groups to strengthen the training for frontline officers including crisis intervention and understanding the trauma and psychology of victims. A training video on the new Police procedures has been produced and is used by each Police district during training sessions. The Multi-disciplinary Guidelines on the Handling of Battered Spouse Cases are also covered in the syllabus for new recruits at the Police Training School. For the past two years, the Police and the Education Officer of Harmony House have jointly conducted regular training sessions for Inspectorate officers.

9. The Working Group on Battered Spouses recognizes the importance of public education as a preventive strategy to tackle the problem of wife battering. The importance of multi-disciplinary cooperation was highlighted recently in the "Seminar on Multi-Disciplinary Cooperation in Handling Battered Spouse Cases" organised in March 1996 for about 300 concerned professionals. The Working Group is also assuming a coordinating role in collecting and disseminating information for different public education programmes. Furthermore, plans are being made to produce television and radio announcements of public interest and publicity leaflets to enhance public awareness of the problem and to encourage victims to come forward for assistance.


10. Tackling the problem of wife battering requires the concerted efforts from various professions. The Police, SWD and HA have maintained close liaison to ensure proper service coordination and referrals. There are also joint efforts in organizing training programmes to equip frontline staff with the knowledge of handling wife battering cases.

Health and Welfare Branch
Security Branch
26 November 1996

Annex A

Multi-Disciplinary Guidelines on Handling of Battered Spouse Cases

A summary of the respective roles of the Police, the Hospital Authority and the Social Welfare Department under the above guidelines is set out below.-

The Police

2. The "Force Procedures in Handling Domestic Violence incidents" are included in the Multi-disciplinary Guidelines, and are applicable to the handling of wife battering cases. The Procedures define the role and responsibilities of Police officers attending to incidents of domestic violence and set out the referral arrangements to places of refuge.

3. The primary role of a Police officer attending to a domestic violence incident is -

  1. to protect the victim from further attack;
  2. to ensure that the victim and any children are no longer at risk of violence or further violence;
  3. to take firm and positive action against the alleged offender and to investigate any offences which may have been committed;
  4. to serve a Domestic Incident Notice (see Note 1) on the offender if the victim consents to such course of action;
  5. to check all parties concerned to see if anyone has been issued a Domestic Violence Injunction (see Note 2) by a court under the Domestic Violence Ordinance, and take appropriate action according to the terms of the injunction; and
  6. if necessary, to offer medical treatment to the victim(s).

The Hospital Authority

4. The HA has formulated a "Protocol for Handling of Wife Battering in Accident & Emergency Department" to ensure proper treatment of battered wives. The objectives of the Protocol are:

  1. to help victims of domestic violence at the critical moment and to help break the vicious cycle of chronic abuse;
  2. to raise the awareness of health care providers to recognise the problem and provide appropriate treatment; and
  3. to inform health care providers of the range of services that are available to the victim to facilitate referral arrangements be made.

5. Since victims of domestic violence are sometimes reluctant to avail themselves for hospital treatment or disclose information on being abused, the role of clinicians is to ensure that the cycle of abuse is interrupted. This is achieved by increasing awareness when examining patients at risks of domestic violence, assessing potential risk factors, providing appropriate medical intervention to facilitate the recovery of victims, and referrals to other professionals and service providers for follow-up.

The Social Welfare Department

6. The 65 Family Services Centres operated by SWD and NGOs over the territory and the medical social services units attached to hospitals and clinics are focal points for the delivery of welfare services to battered wives. Counselling, welfare assistance and referral for services are provided by caseworkers in Family Services Centres and medical social services units to battered spouses who are in need of assistance. Besides counselling, other support services provided include medical examination, referral to temporary refuge (Wai On Home for Women operated by SWD, Harmony House and Serene Court run by NGOs), financial assistance, child care arrangement, housing assistance and legal advice. Where appropriate, the victims will be advised to report their cases to the Police.


1. Domestic Incident Notice

A Domestic Incident Notice is a Police administrative document. It is not part of a legal scheme and is not established under any legislative provisions. It is not a warning notice. It is a record of a victim making an allegation against the offender. It notifies the offender that the allegation has been made and that the victim does not wish the allegation to be investigated with a view to criminal charges being laid and a prosecution brought. It draws the offender’s attention to legislation that she/he may contravene if she/he repeats her/his actions.

2. Domestic Violence Injunction Order

Under the Domestic Violence Ordinance, Cap. 189, where a party to a marriage makes an application to a civil court, the court may grant an injunction which either :-

  1. restrains the other party to a marriage from using violence against the applicant or a child living with the applicant; or
  2. >excludes the other party from the matrimonial home or from a specified part of the matrimonial home or from a specified area.

The terms of the injunction and its validity are limited to three months plus one extension of another three months, provided that the total period of validity does not exceed six months.


Annex B

Referrals on Wife Battering Cases made by the Police

Statistics on Police referrals to the following organizations have been maintained since April 1996 for purposes of the centralized information system under SWD. Between April and August, the number of referrals was:-


Number of Persons






Legal Aid




Other NGO


Harmony House
















Last Updated on 21 August 1998