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LCQ4: Law enforcement agencies' handling of cases involving persons with physical disabilities or special needs

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che in the Legislative Council today (December 19):


     It has been reported that in the evening of October 11 this year, police officers from the Police Tactical Unit of the New Territories South Region intercepted a man with moderate intellectual disabilities on a street in Kwai Chung District.  As they were unable to communicate with the man, the police officers took him to the police station.  Subsequently, some police officers allegedly fabricated statements, locked the man up in a detention cell of the police station and made preparations for repatriating the man to the Mainland as an illegal entrant.  Fortunately, on the following day, a more senior police officer discovered that the man had newly arrived to settle in Hong Kong and had been reported missing by his family members in the afternoon of October 11.  On the other hand, following the incident in which Yu Man-hon, an autistic boy who went to the Mainland on his own through Lo Wu Control Point in August 2000, has gone missing since then, the authorities had stated that they would enhance the awareness of the disciplinary forces, the frontline officers in particular, in dealing with persons with intellectual disabilities (PIDs).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Hong Kong Police Force and the Immigration Department have, at present, drawn up any codes of practice on the questioning of PIDs and the taking of statements from them; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether arrangements have been made for relevant professionals (such as social workers) to assist them in handling such tasks; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the number of PIDs who were taken to police stations for interrogation in each of the past three years, together with a breakdown by type of cases; how the Police handled such cases; and

(c) of the training provided by various law enforcement departments to their frontline officers on handling PIDs subsequent to the Yu Man-hon incident; whether the authorities will review and further strengthen staff training, as well as improve the relevant procedures and guidelines, so as to ensure that the frontline officers of disciplinary forces can handle the special needs of PIDs more effectively in discharging duties; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     In handling cases involving persons with physical disabilities or special needs (including mentally incapacitated persons (MIPs)), our law enforcement agencies shall adhere to internal guidelines of their respective departments, taking extra caution and adopting measures to meet their specific requirements.  In addition, frontline officers are required to receive training to ensure that they have the required awareness and sensitivity in dealing with such persons.

     My reply to the Member's question is as follows:

(a) Police officers and immigration officers shall follow the internal guidelines of their respective departments when conducting enquiries or taking statements.  It is specified in such guidelines that, as far as practicable, any person suspected or known to be an MIP, whether suspected of a crime or not, shall be interviewed or have a statement taken from him by police officers/immigration officers in the presence of one of the following appropriate adults:

(i) a relative, guardian or other person responsible for his care or custody;

(ii) someone who has experience in dealing with an MIP but who is not a police officer/an immigration officer nor anyone employed by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF)/Immigration Department (ImmD), such as a social worker; or

(iii) failure of either of the above, some other responsible adult not being a police officer/an immigration officer or anyone employed by the HKPF/ImmD.

     The police officers/immigration officers shall clearly explain the purpose and procedure of such an interview to the appropriate adult or any relevant persons present.  In the situation where an MIP elects to give a written statement, the appropriate adult shall be invited to read over and sign any statement taken down by the police officers/immigration officers in their presence.

     In case an officer at the rank of Superintendent of Police/Chief Immigration Officer or above considers that any delay in an interview of a person suspected to be an MIP will involve an immediate risk of harm to persons or serious damage to property, he may authorise the person's interview in the absence of an appropriate adult.  Any such interview shall cease once the immediate risk has been averted.

     Furthermore, whenever an MIP is involved in an offence, whether as a victim or a witness, the police officers may take statement by way of a video recorded interview and such recording may be used in criminal proceedings as evidence-in-chief under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.  An officer in charge of the case may seek assistance from clinical psychologists of the Social Welfare Department when conducting video-recorded interviews with, or an assessment of, the MIPs.

     In case an MIP's identity cannot be confirmed and is suspected that the person is a missing person, the police officer/immigration officer shall verify via the internal communication system or with the HKPF's Missing Person Unit to ascertain if the person is a missing person.

(b) The Police do not maintain a breakdown of cases involving MIPs.  However, as stated in my reply to part (a) of the question, a police officer shall adhere to specified procedures when following up cases that may require an interview or statement-taking with a person suspected or known to be an MIP.

(c) Law enforcement agencies have put in place training and clear guidelines to assist their frontline officers in serving and dealing with MIPs.

     Since the Yu Man-hon's incident in year 2000, the ImmD has stepped up sensitivity training for its frontline staff in handling persons with physical/mental disabilities or communication difficulties.  From 2000 to 2002, upon the ImmD's invitation, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Parents' Association of Pre-School Handicapped Children, Hong Kong Blind Union, Hong Kong Society for the Deaf, Rehabilitation Alliance Hong Kong and relevant professionals in the academic field of the City University of Hong Kong conducted seminars and instructor training courses for frontline staff, covering issues such as understanding and interacting with persons with physical/mental disabilities or communication difficulties.  Drawing reference from the contents of the above training courses and views of relevant professional organisations, the ImmD has enhanced its internal training programmes.  All serving frontline staff and new recruits are required to participate in such programmes to augment their awareness and sensitivity in dealing with these persons.  The ImmD has uploaded onto its intranet rules and guidelines for handling cases involving persons with physical/mental disabilities, as well as learning materials from the training courses co-organised with the EOC for staff's reference.

     On another front, the Police have formulated guidelines and procedures for dealing with MIPs.  Such guidelines and techniques are incorporated into the induction training courses for probationary inspectors and recruit police constables.  Now all frontline officers have received such training and will exercise caution when handling cases involving such persons.  The guidelines and procedures are under regular review to ensure that police officers are professionally competent to handle and investigate each and every case.

Ends/Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:20


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