LCQ19: Juvenile sex crimes

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Tanya Chan in the Legislative Council today (May 2):


     It has been learnt that there were cases of sex crimes, including rape, unlawful sexual intercourse and indecent assault, which involved minors under 18 years of age in the past.  In some of the cases involving boys under 14 having sexual intercourse with girls, the boys involved could not be convicted of the offences of unlawful sexual intercourse or rape, as the existing law refuses to accept that boys under 14 years of age are capable of sexual intercourse.  In December 2010, the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong published a report on "The Common Law Presumption that a Boy under 14 is Incapable of Sexual Intercourse", pointing out that this common law presumption has been abolished in a number of jurisdictions, and that the aforesaid presumption is at odds with reality and should therefore be abolished.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) in the past five years, of the number of cases of sexual offences involving persons under 18 years of age, the age distribution of the offenders and victims, and the number of offenders convicted (set out in the table attached);
(b) in the past five years, of the number of cases of sexual offences involving minors under 18 years of age in which the Government had not instituted prosecution; among such cases, of the number of those in which the suspects, despite the fact they indeed had sexual intercourse with the victims, could only be charged with indecent assault instead of rape or unlawful sexual intercourse, based on the aforesaid common law presumption, because the suspects were boys under 14; and

(c) regarding the situation of juveniles involving in sexual offences, of the measures adopted by the Government to prevent juveniles from committing sexual offences, and to provide counselling and support to underage victims of sexual offences as well as minors committing relevant offences; whether it will consider reviewing the existing sex education curriculum; if it will, of the work plan; if not, the reasons for that?    


     Under the existing common law, there is an irrebuttable common law presumption of criminal law that a boy under 14 is incapable of sexual intercourse. After reviewing the presumption and its implications, the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong (LRC) issued a report in December 2010 recommending that the common law presumption should be abolished.

     In order to implement the LRC's recommendation, the Government has proposed that a new provision be inserted in the Crimes Ordinance to abolish the common law presumption.  The Legislative Council (LegCo)'s  Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services discussed this recommendation at its meeting on February 28, 2011. Members generally supported this recommendation.  On April 20, 2012, the Government published in the gazette the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2012 (the Bill) which adds a provision to the Crimes Ordinance to abolish the common law presumption that a boy under 14 is incapable of sexual intercourse.  The Bill will be introduced into the LegCo for scrutiny on May 2, 2012.
     Our replies to the specific questions are as follows:

(a) and (b) In the past five years, the number of arrests and convictions of cases of sexual offences involving offenders under 18 years of age, and the number of crime reports of sexual offences cases including child victims under 18 years of age are set out at the Annex. The Government has not kept any separate figures on cases involving offenders under 18 years of age in which no prosecution has been instituted.

(c) Juvenile sex crimes involve complicated social issues.  To combat such crimes effectively and enhance the self-protection awareness among juveniles, concerted efforts from different parties are required.
     The Police have been developing and implementing strategies to combat juvenile crimes through an "inter-departmental" and "multi-agency" approach.  The Police will take part in seminars organised by the Education Bureau (EDB) and brief the participating school principals and teachers on sex crimes and legislations relating to computer networks in order to enhance their knowledge of sex crimes.  The Police will also continue to implement the "School Liaison Officer Scheme" to strengthen communication with schools, instill proper values and the ability to discern right from wrong among primary and secondary students, and enhance youngsters' awareness of sex crimes.  Talks will also be held at schools for teachers and social workers to enhance their knowledge in this area.

     Moreover, following the theme of "Protect Yourself from Sexual Assault" in the 2011-12 fight crime publicity campaign, the Fight Crime Committee will adopt "Guard against Sexual Assault" as one of the themes in the 2012-13 publicity campaign.  The Police will continue to display banners and distribute publicity materials in schools in Hong Kong and places of interest to raise awareness on the importance of personal safety.

     As preventive education, EDB is committed to the promotion of sex education in schools, with an aim of helping students understand sex-related issues during their personal growth and nurture positive values and attitudes, thus to facilitate their whole-person development.  Through a holistic school curriculum incorporating sex education, complemented by sex-related preventive and developmental guidance activities for students, it helps students develop a healthy attitude towards sex and proper values.  In addition, EDB conducts talks and seminars annually to enhance the awareness of education professionals about the protection of children against sexual abuse.

     To address the developmental needs of contemporary youth, EDB constantly reviews the school curriculum.  Sex education related learning objectives and relevant life events are spelt out in the revised MCE curriculum framework launched in April 2008.  In the New Senior Secondary Curriculum implemented since 2009, elements of sex education are also covered in Liberal Studies, Ethics and Religious Studies as well as Health Management and Social Care.  The update of General Studies curriculum was completed in 2011 and the part on sex education was strengthened. Life and Society, scheduled to be implemented in September 2012, includes learning elements in relation to the development of proper conceptions of and attitude towards sex.

     The Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides young people with a range of preventive, developmental and remedial services to help them build up positive values and prevent them from having delinquent behaviour, including committing sex offences, during their developmental stage.  The services concerned include the "one school social worker for each secondary school" scheme implemented in all secondary schools over the territory to offer appropriate support and counselling to students encountering difficulties in their academic studies as well as social and emotional development.  The Government has also subvented 138 integrated children and youth services centres across the territory to provide young people with socialisation programmes and holistic supportive services at the neighbourhood level to assist them in developing positive values.  In addition, 16 district outreaching social work teams and 18 overnight outreaching teams for young night drifters proactively approach and offer counselling, guidance and support to youths at risk.

     In providing support to underage victims, SWD will, being notified of suspected cases of sexual abuse involving underage victims, contact the victims and their families immediately for provision of necessary support services, including counselling, medical treatment, clinical psychological service and temporary accommodation, etc.  Social workers may also apply for Care or Protection Order for the victims concerned under the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance.  Besides, SWD will arrange support persons to accompany the victims during court proceedings to reduce their fear and anxiety as necessary.

     As for minor offenders, SWD subvents five Community Support Service Scheme (CSSS) teams to assist young people who are under the Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme, including youths involved in sexual offences.  Through providing guidance, counselling, treatment groups and community services etc., CSSS teams help them reintegrate into mainstream education or work force with a view to reducing likelihood of repeated offences.  Furthermore, upon conviction, the Court will consider the young offender's background and decide if it is appropriate, according to the Probation of Offenders Ordinance, to place him/her under a probation order and to receive statutory supervision from a probation officer of SWD for a specified period of one to three years.  Apart from counselling services for young offenders, probation officers will also refer individual probationers to receive psychological treatment, welfare and residential services according to their needs, so as to help them start afresh and reintegrate into the community.

Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:37