LCQ13: Domestic violence

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     To address the existing problems of family violence, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has implemented various measures to prevent abusers from repeating abusive acts, as well as to protect the victims.  However, some community groups said that these measures could not achieve the expected results.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of spouse battering cases received by SWD each year from 2009 to 2010;

(b) of the number of cases handled by SWD's Anti-violence Programme (AVP) (a psycho-educational programme designed for abusers who are ordered by the court to attend under the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance) (Cap. 189) each year from 2009 to 2010; the percentages of such numbers to the expected numbers; whether the Government will consider amending the legislation to compel abusers who are subjects of bind-over orders issued by the court to attend AVP; if it will, of the implementation details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) among the spouse battering cases handled by SWD's Family and Child Protective Services Units in 2009 and 2010, of the number of cases in which non-molestation orders were issued by the court each year, as well as the number of applications for non-molestation orders yet to be heard by the court; whether the authorities will consider streamlining the application procedure for non-molestation orders; if they will, of the implementation details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) According to the statistics collected by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the numbers of newly reported battered spouse cases in 2009 and 2010 were 4 807 and 3 163 respectively.

(b) The Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (Cap. 189) (the Ordinance) provides that any person who has been molested by his or her spouse, former spouse, relatives, cohabitant or former cohabitant may apply to the Family Court for injunctions.  The court may, in granting a non-molestation order in accordance with Section 3, 3A or 3B of the Ordinance, require the abuser to attend the Anti-Violence Programme (AVP) approved by the Director of Social Welfare, with a view to changing the abuser's attitude and behaviour leading to the granting of such injunction by the court.

     In 2009, SWD received three referrals to AVP from the court pursuant to the Ordinance.  No such referral was made in 2010.  Given the different circumstances of individual spouse battering cases, victims may not necessarily apply for injunctions under the Ordinance.  Besides, the number of persons attending AVP also depends on the number of referrals made by the court under appropriate circumstances.  

     Currently, there are no provisions in the relevant ordinances, including the Magistrates Ordinance and the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, that empower the court to include specific conditions such as mandatory treatment in bind-over orders.  As to whether legislative amendments should be introduced to empower the court to impose a condition in a bind-over order, it is worth noting that such proposal involves legal issues which cover cases not just confined to domestic violence, but others where bind-overs may apply.  As such, the proposal needs to be carefully considered having regard to the nature of the cases involved in the applications for bind-over orders and the intention of establishing the bind-over system in the first place.

     Besides, under the existing legislation, the court may make a probation order requiring an abuser convicted of a criminal offence to attend the Batterer Intervention Programme (BIP) of SWD or receive other forms of counselling.  Pursuant to the Probation of Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 298), a probation order may in addition require the offender to comply with such requirements as the court considers necessary for securing the good conduct of the offender or for preventing a repetition by the offender of the same offence or the commission of other offences. In connection with the above, probation officers have been referring convicted abusers put on probation to attend BIP, with a view to helping the abusers get a better understanding of domestic violence, change the misguided concepts about gender and spouse battering, learn to control emotions, resolve conflicts and enhance marriage relationship, etc.  If the abusers refuse to attend BIP arranged by the probation officer as stipulated in the probation order, he or she may be regarded as breaching the probation order and may face the court's judgment again.  Apart from those required under the probation order to attend the programme, some courts have, through the referral mechanism established with SWD, referred cases with such need, including persons subject to bind-over orders, to attend BIP on a voluntary basis.

     Since the launch of BIP in 2006, the programme has provided services to about 500 abusers, including those subject to probation or bind-over orders as ordered by the court.  The results of the programme have been satisfactory.  SWD has also arranged briefings to introduce BIP to the Judiciary so that referrals can be made by the court where appropriate.  SWD will continue to maintain liaison with the Judiciary to enhance awareness of AVP and BIP among the concerned parties, as well as encourage referrals of suitable persons to participate in these programmes.

(c) As far as the spouse battering cases handled by its Family and Child Protective Services Units are concerned, SWD does not maintain statistics on the number of successful injunction applications or injunction applications awaiting hearing by the court.

     According to the information provided by the Judiciary, the numbers of cases where injunctions were granted by the court pursuant to the Ordinance in 2009 and 2010 were 26 and 23 respectively.  As at March 10, 2011, the number of injunction applications yet to be heard by the court was eight.  The Judiciary does not have further breakdown on the number of spouse battering cases involved.

     At present, the Judiciary will arrange the court to deal with applications for injunctions relating to the Ordinance as soon as possible.  Under normal circumstances, applicant who wishes to apply for injunction pursuant to the Ordinance should make application by way of summons, together with the necessary affirmation, and file them to the court.  Since the application is a civil action, there are certain procedural requirements on the conduct of proceedings to protect the rights of both parties.  But in case of emergency, the applicant can make an ex parte injunction application to the judge and the court will deal with it immediately.  If the court is satisfied with the reasons put forward by the applicant, the court may grant an injunction immediately.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:28