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LCQ6: Combating juvenile crimes

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah in the Legislative Council today (February 3):


     It has been reported that a number criminal cases involving young people which occurred recently are related to triad gangs.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of young people aged below 18 who were convicted of criminal offences in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by the category of the offence; among them, the respective proportions of young people who were attending and had dropped out of schools at the time when they committed the crimes, as well as the proportion of those involved in crimes related to triad gangs;

(b) given that there are at present only 85 liaison officers under the School Liaison Officer Scheme, which was implemented by the Police to prevent primary and secondary school students from committing crimes, and each officer has to be responsible for following up 14 schools on average, whether the authorities had, in the past three years, assessed the effectiveness of the Scheme; if they had, of the outcome; whether the Police will consider enhancing manpower to the extent that one liaison officer will be responsible for one school only; if they will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the Government will consider amending the law to raise the relevant penalties so as to deter and combat juvenile crimes?



(a) In 2007, 2008 and 2009, the total number of arrested young persons aged below 18 were 6,875, 6,303 and 6,049 respectively. Of those arrested, 77.1%, 75.1% and 75.8% were students.  In the past three years, 327, 276 and 237 young persons aged below 18 were arrested for unlawful society offences, which are also known as triad society offences.  The major types of offences committed by young persons were shop theft, and other offences including miscellaneous thefts, wounding and serious assault, etc.

     The Police usually use number of arrests to compare the types of crime committed by young people and such trends.  We rarely use number of convictions for such purposes because most young offenders are either first-time offenders or their offences are usually relatively minor in nature, such as shop theft, and hence, many arrested young persons would not be referred to the Court for conviction.  They are either cautioned under the Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme (PSDS) or ordered by the Court to bind over to keep the peace, which provide them with rehabilitation opportunities under circumstances which are appropriate and permitted by law.  Therefore, there is a significant difference between the number of arrests and the number of convictions, with the latter being regarded as on the low side sometimes.  Nevertheless, the Police have provided the conviction figures recorded in the past three years as requested by the Member, and they are set out in the Annex which is attached to the main reply that I have submitted.

(b) The Police are experienced in implementing the Police School Liaison Programme (PSLP) under which dedicated School Liaison Officers (SLOs) are assigned to handle school liaison work.  The primary objective of the PSLP, is through establishing good relationship with the school community including students, teachers and parents, to enhance students' understanding of the role of and assistance offered by the Police as well as the importance to respect law and order.  Apart from preventing students from committing crimes, the PSLP also seeks to early identify and provide counselling services to youths at risk at an early stage through communication with students and relevant parties.  In 2008/09, to better support anti-drug and crime prevention efforts in schools, additional resources were allocated to create 27 SLOs, which brings the total number of SLOs to 85 with an increase of almost 50%.

     The SLOs of the Police will take into account the needs of individual schools and adopt an appropriate approach to assist teachers and social workers in their endeavour to instil in students a sense of responsibility, moral values and personal discipline.  Their primary roles are to give professional advice to schools when unruly behaviour of students is detected. If such behaviours do not involve criminal offences, SLOs may, with consent given by school authorities and parents, refer the cases to suitable agencies such as Social Welfare Department for follow up. To prevent students from going astray, SLOs also give talks to students to disseminate the anti-crime message on crime-related topics including drugs, triad and different types of criminal offences.

     In consultation with schools, parents, social workers and other stakeholders, the Police have kept the PSLP under review.  Feedback from the various parties has been very positive.  We consider that the existing arrangements are effective, and should continue to be implemented.  The Police will review from time to time the need to increase the manpower for the PSLP according to practical experiences.  Meanwhile, SLOs are not the only professionals in schools who can provide assistance to students.  In fact, school authorities, parents, school social workers and other professionals also play an important role in this respect.

(c) Anyone who commits a criminal offence would be treated equally by the Police, and would be followed up and prosecuted according to relevant criminal law provisions.  We will not increase the penalty for young people and ask them to bear a heavier criminal liability because of their young age.  In fact, to combat juvenile crime, especially for those first time offenders, the community has reached a general consensus that we should, having regard to individual circumstances, encourage them to turn back to the right track through offering them rehabilitation opportunities and treating them with active measures such as caution, arrangement to keep the peace and counselling services. We should guide young people to learn the lesson, obey the law and have proper values.

     Generally speaking, the Police can caution young persons under the PSDS if they commit minor offences and have expressed contrition.  In addition, for appropriate cases, the Police and the Department of Justice can also apply to the Court to offer young offenders the arrangement of bind over to keep the peace in place of conviction, thus avoiding the carrying of conviction records by young persons easily.

     However, for those young persons who have committed serious crimes such as murder, serious assault and serious narcotics offences, or repeated offenders, the Police will for sure, having regard to circumstances of individual cases, prosecute the offenders in accordance with the law after seeking advice from the Department of Justice.

Ends/Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 17:02


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