LCQ7: Review of long-term prison sentences

    Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung in the Legislative Council today (May 21):


    A number of prisoners serving long-term sentences have relayed to me that despite their determination to rehabilitate themselves, they have great difficulty in meeting the existing criteria for applying for the review of long-term sentences, making it difficult for their sentences to be remitted.  Moreover, they have indicated that the rehabilitative services of the Correctional Services Department fail to effectively assist discharged prisoners in integrating into society.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the following in the past three years:

    (i) the total number of prisoners whose sentences had been reviewed by the Long-term Prison Sentences Review Board (¡§LPSRB¡¨);

    (ii) the number of cases in which LPSRB suggested that the indeterminate sentences be commuted to determinate ones; and

    (iii) the respective numbers of prisoners ordered by LPSRB to be released conditionally and put under supervision after release;

(b) whether it will review the existing criteria for applying for sentence review; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it will further enhance the existing rehabilitative services to assist prisoners in acquiring work skills and integrating into society; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) Statistics on the cases reviewed by the Long-term Prison Sentences Review Board (¡§LTPSRB¡¨) in the past three years are as follows:

    (i) A total of 1,469 cases were reviewed;

    (ii) Of the cases reviewed, 350 were cases of indeterminate sentences, amongst which the LTPSRB recommended the substitution by determinate sentences in 19 cases;

    (iii) The respective numbers of prisoners ordered by the LTPSRB to be released conditionally and put under supervision after release were two and 20 respectively.

(b) The LTPSRB is an independent statutory body established pursuant to the Long-term Prison Sentences Review Ordinance (Cap. 524) (¡§the Ordinance¡¨).  Its principal function is to review indeterminate and long-term prison sentences, and to make recommendations to the Chief Executive on sentence remission for appropriate cases.  Section 11 of the Ordinance provides that the Commissioner of Correctional Services must refer long-term and indeterminate sentences of prisoners to the LTPSRB for regular review according to the specified schedules.  The prisoners concerned are not required to lodge an application themselves.

    The sentence of every prisoner is handed down by the Court.  In general, prisoners serving long-term or indeterminate sentences are those who have committed serious crimes.  The LTPSRB will review each case referred to it with due care and consider all relevant factors, including the nature of the offence, length of time served, whether the prisoner has been completely rehabilitated, and public safety, etc.  Only when there are sufficient justifications after a thorough consideration of all relevant factors will the LTPSRB recommend to the Chief Executive that an indeterminate sentence be substituted by a determinate one, or that a prisoner¡¦s determinate sentence be remitted.

(c) The Correctional Services Department (CSD) is committed to assisting prisoners in their rehabilitation.  The Department will from time to time review and strengthen its existing rehabilitation services to enhance prisoners¡¦ employability and help them reintegrate back into the society smoothly after release.  At present, apart from the opportunity to improve vocational skills through daily work in prison workshops, eligible prisoners may also apply for full-time pre-release vocational training courses run by CSD for local prisoners.  These include courses for male prisoners offered by the Lai Sun Correctional Institution Vocational Training Centre since June 2006, and courses for female prisoners offered by the Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institution starting since February 2008.  Prisoners may also apply for short training courses provided at various adult institutions.  Upon completion of the courses, prisoners will be arranged to sit for related public examinations for assessing their level of learning and attaining recognised professional qualifications.  Such courses could help prisoners to find jobs as soon as possible after release and facilitate their re-integration into the society.

    Starting from 2008/09, CSD will step up its co-operation with the Employees Retraining Board by arranging for the Board¡¦s short-term vocational training courses to operate at various institutions for adult prisoners.  This serves to provide more opportunities for prisoners to receive vocational training while serving their sentences.

Ends/Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Issued at HKT 18:51