For discussion
on 16 July 1999

Legislative Council Panel on Security

The Provision of Video Interview Rooms
in the Police Force


This note informs Members of the provision of video interview rooms (VIRs) in the Police Force.


2. The Law Reform Commission (LRC) released a "Report on Arrest" in August 1992. It recommended, inter alia, that tape-recording and video-taping of interviews be introduced into Hong Kong. This was accepted by the inter-departmental Working Group set up by the Government to consider the "Report on Arrest".

3. The Police Force began the use of VIRs, as a pilot programme, in 1993 with a single VIR unit installed in the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau. The number of VIRs was expanded in phases. By December 1998, the number of completed and fully operational VIRs had reached 60. To provide the highest degree of geographical and operational coverage, each major divisional Police station now houses at least one VIR. It has the capacity to deal with all projected interviews for cases in the two higher courts (i.e. District Court and the Court of First Instance) and provides for the simultaneous interviewing of multiple suspects in serious cases. The distribution of VIRs is shown in Annex A.

4. Video-interviewing suspects is conducted by Police officers who have received an intensive two-day training course in taking statements recorded on videotape. At the conclusion of the interview, the officer must decide by reviewing the tape whether to release or charge the suspect. Should it be decided to charge the suspect, the officer will have to prepare a verbatim transcription of the interview process, to be followed by translation in case expatriate lawyers or judges are involved in the case. In general, a one-hour videotaped interview record would take three hours to transcribe, to be followed by translation.

5. Annex B shows the distribution of Police stations which do not have VIRs. These stations are not chosen at the time of expansion because they are either located in sparsely populated area where the need for VIR facilities is low, or there are physical constraints to the construction of such facilities. Having regard to the resources available then, they are not included in Annex A. Although these stations are not equipped with such facilities, they can still make use of VIRs in other Police stations in the vicinity without delay. It should also be noted that three more Police stations (i.e. Lantau North, the Airport and Central) in Annex B will be installed with VIRs in the third quarter of 1999. Subject to availability of resources and physical constraints, it is anticipated that the remaining stations will install VIRs in their own premises.

Criteria for Using VIRs

6. Since January 1999, video interview of all suspects arrested in connection with serious criminal offences where the trial is reasonably expected to be in either the District Court or the Court of First Instance are mandatory. As a general guideline, VIRs may also be used to take statements from suspects if one or more of the following apply :-

  1. the offence involves a penalty of five years or more;

  2. the nature of the case is likely to attract significant public interest; or

  3. as directed by a Chief Inspector of Police or above who is commanding the investigation.

Advantages of Video Recorded Interviews

7. Video recorded interviews with suspects are regarded as superior in quality to handwritten records of interviews or taped interviews. Experience shows that the admissibility of statements taken on videos are less likely to be challenged in courts. A video recording of the statement made by a suspect can provide the court with not only the record of reactions of the person to the questions asked but also demonstrates the circumstances in which the statement was taken. This ensures the integrity of the interviewing process.


8. The Police Force has planned to review the VIR scheme at the end of 1999 / early 2000. This will allow sufficient time for the scheme to be thoroughly tested. In planning the further expansion of video interview facilities, we will need to consider the views of the Judiciary, Department of Justice, the Law Society and the Bar Association as the wider use of VIR interviews will have an impact on their work. In particular, the Judiciary will need to ensure that they have the necessary facilities to cope with the increased use of videotaped interviews. We will also need to take into account the resource implications for the Police Force.

9. In expanding the provision of VIRs, there are four main areas of costs incurred for the Police Force. These are the capital costs of renovating and equipping the VIRs, the maintenance costs, the operational costs (consumables and transcription) and the notional cost of removing the staff from existing duties for a two-day training programme. If we are to expand the VIR facilities from 60 to 120 to cater for all cases (i.e. cases tried in Magistrate, District Court and Court of First Instance), we will need $17 million renovation and equipment cost as well as $51.2 million notional cost for training in video interview techniques. As regards the recurrent cost each year, we will need $31.1 million consisting of $5 million consumables, $25.7 million transcription and $0.41 million for maintenance. We would, however, emphasize that these are only rough estimates which are based on a number of assumptions, for example, the number of crime cases and arrests. As these figures may fluctuate considerably, the estimates should be treated as indicative only.

Security Bureau
9 July 1999

Annex A

Distribution of VIRs

Major Formation/RegionBureau/DistrictNo. of VIRs
Crime WingNarcotics Bureau4
Organized Crime & Triad Bureau3
Commercial Crime Bureau2
Training WingDetective Training School2
Hong Kong IslandEastern3
Kowloon EastWong Tai Sin2
Kwun Tong4
Sau Mau Ping3
Kowloon WestYau Tsim2
Sham Shui Po3
Kowloon City5
New TerritoriesNorth Tai Po4
Tuen Mun3
Yuen Long1
New Territories SouthTsuen Wan2
Kwai Tsing2
* Lantau-
MarineMarine Headquarters2
Correctional Services
Department at Lai Chi Kok(#)
Reception Centre1

* Lantau District -one VIR will be built in Lantau District
(Lantau North Police Station)

# The VIR is Police facility set up in Correctional Services Department setting.

Annex B

Police Stations without VIRs

RegionPolice StationTotal
Hong Kong Island:Peak
Kowloon East : Tsz Wan Shan1
Kowloon West:Nil0
New Territories North:Yuen Long
Pat Heung
Sha Tau Kok
Ta Kwu Ling
Lok Ma Chau
Lau Fau Shan
New Territories South:Tin Sum
Lantau South
*Lantau North
Marine:Cheung Chau
Marine East
Marine North
Marine West
Marine South
Marine Harbour

* Three VIRs will be built in Central, Lantau North and Airport Police Station in the third quarter of 1999