LCQ2: Meal provision to detainees in Magistrates' Courts
At present, meals for persons detained in cell holding units in various Magistrates' Courts (detainees) are mainly supplied by the canteens in nearby police stations. I have received quite a number of complaints in recent months that the takeaway boxed meals supplied by such canteens were lukewarm and unhygienic, causing some people to feel ill after having the meals. In reply to my enquiry about the canteen in the Kowloon City Police Station, the authorities have indicated that according to section 4 of the Food Business Regulation, the expression "food business" does not include "any canteens provided in work places for the use exclusively of the persons employed in the work places", and hence the canteen concerned is not required to hold a food business licence. However, some people have pointed out that as detainees are not employed in the Kowloon City Police Station, it may be illegal for the canteen to supply meals to the detainees in the Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts. On the other hand, the authorities have also indicated that the detainees may, with the consent of the departments concerned, request that arrangement be made by their relatives and friends at their expenses for meals to be supplied to them by outside restaurants, and the meals are required to go through security checks conducted by the relevant departments. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the food supplied by restaurants holding food business licences (licensed restaurants) is required to meet food safety standards, whether the authorities will consider having the meals for detainees supplied by licensed restaurants instead; if they will, of the implementation time; if not, the reasons for that, and whether such reasons include the Government's disregard for such people's rights;
(2) whether the authorities will consider having the meals for detainees in Magistrates' Courts to be supplied by licensed restaurants which are located within the Magistrates' Courts (including those located in the Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts) instead; whether there are licensed restaurants in each of the Magistrates' Courts at present; if not, whether the authorities will immediately conduct open tenders for selection of contractors to open restaurants in those Magistrates' Courts which do not have any licensed restaurant; and
(3) as the relatives and friends of some detainees have relayed to me that the police officers stationed in the Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts have refused to deliver food to detainees bought by them from the licensed restaurants in the Magistrates' Courts, of the current application procedure for supplying food to detainees by their relatives and friends, including the method and criteria adopted for vetting and approving the applications and the departments involved; whether the authorities will simplify the procedure?
Section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance (Cap. 232) specifies the duties of the Police Force, which include escorting and guarding prisoners and keeping order in court. The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) respect the rights of detainees, and all along fulfill their duty of care to persons remanded by the Police, and ensure that their rights and safety are safeguarded.
At present, there are seven Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong, which are located respectively in the Eastern District, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Fanling, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun. The Police are responsible for the operation of the cell holding units (CHU) of Magistrates' Courts. A police officer at the inspectorate rank is designated as the Officer-in-Charge (Court) (OC Court) of each CHU, and is accountable to, according to the police district he or she reports to, an officer at the chief inspectorate rank responsible for court affairs as well as to an officer at the senior superintendent rank in charge of administration matters of the respective region. Upon consultation with the Judiciary and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, I set out my reply to Hon Leung Kwok-hung's question as follows:
(1) and (3) The Police respect the rights of detainees and are committed to safeguarding their rights during the period of detention regardless of whether they are remanded in a police station or a Magistrates' Court. In fulfilling their statutory duties, discharging their duty of care to detainees and protecting detainees' safety, the Police will also adopt proper measures, which include taking care of the basic needs of detainees.
In most of the cases, detainees will only be remanded in a CHU of a Magistrates' Court for a short span of time to wait for a trial to commence or resume, which will generally not be more than one working day. In the light of the actual situation, the HKPF shall provide three meals, i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner, to such detainees. As far as the current practice is concerned, meals are mainly supplied by the canteen of a police station near a Magistrates' Court. For instance, meals for detainees in the CHU of Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts are supplied by the canteen of the Kowloon City Police Station.
Contractors of police stations' canteens are selected and commissioned by the HKPF regularly through open tender. The provisions of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), including the meaning of the expression "food business" under the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X), is not applicable to canteens established by the Government. A canteen of any police station is therefore not required to obtain a licence under the Food Business Regulation and shall not fall under "any canteens provided in work places for the use exclusively of the persons employed in the work places" under section 4 of the Regulation. Having said that, the HKPF shall, in the respective contracts, clearly specify the terms and conditions that the contractors shall abide by, including that the food supplied shall meet hygiene standards and nutritional requirements of a balanced diet.
Any contractor of a police station's canteen shall prepare meals that are supplied to detainees in accordance with the relevant guidelines for meals as specified by the HKPF, which include requirements and standards for the meals in respect of the types of food, portion, delivery and storage, etc.
To ensure that the meals meet the requirements in areas such as hygiene and quality, the meals, upon preparation by canteens of police stations, shall be delivered to the Magistrates' Courts concerned as soon as possible. Food must be kept and delivered in insulated containers to ensure that the food therein meets the hygiene standards. The OC Court shall examine all the food to be provided to detainees. When deemed necessary, there may be a slight variation in mealtime depending on the trial duration of the case in the Magistrates' Court, operational requirements and manpower deployment of the Police. To prevent spoiled food from being served, any unconsumed food shall be disposed of within two hours upon receipt, and meals shall be provided again by the canteen of the nearby police station. At the same time, the OC Court may take the initiative to re-order the meal if he considers that the food hygiene or quality falls short of the requirements.
If a detainee has a view on the meal provided by the Police, the OC Court shall review afresh the quality of the food. In the light of the actual circumstances, the OC Court shall consider if there is a need to re-order the meal for the detainee.
During the detention period, if a detainee needs to have a meal outside the specified time, the OC Court may order the meal for the detainee from the canteen of the nearby police station, and the detainee does not need to wait until the next mealtime.
Detainees may make a request to the OC Court in case they wish to be provided meals by their friends or relatives. Generally speaking, the OC Court shall, as far as practicable, give convenience to the detainees' friends or relatives for meal provision, as long as no unreasonable delay or disturbance will be caused to the judicial procedures. Upon approval of such a request, the meals will first undergo security check by police officers to confirm that no tools, weapons, medicines or other suspicious items are hidden in the food, so as to protect the safety of detainees and other persons who may come into contact with them. Once checked, the food shall be delivered by a police officer to the detainees for consumption.
(2) Magistrates' Courts are under the purview of the Judiciary. Apart from the Tsuen Wan Magistrates' Courts, all the other six Magistrates' Courts operated canteens or food kiosks in the past. Based on the Director of Audit's recommendations in his Report No. 31 in 1998, the Government Property Agency reviewed the formulation of standards for canteen operation in 1999. Magistrates' Courts buildings were found to have failed to meet such standards. As a consequence, all Magistrates' Courts have ceased to provide canteen services. Having said that, upon consideration of the above Director of Audit's report, the Judiciary will offer food kiosk services in Magistrates' Courts if tenders can be successfully awarded. At present, food kiosk services are only available at Tuen Mun Law Courts Building and Kowloon City Law Courts Building, where the Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts and Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts are located respectively.
President, meal provision to detainees in Magistrates' Courts has all along been effective, and the food supplied has met hygiene standards and nutritional requirements. The HKPF will continue to properly discharge their duty of care for detainees as appropriate and safeguard their rights.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:33
Issued at HKT 18:33