LCQ10: Observers Scheme of Independent Police Complaints Council

     Following is a question by the Professor Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (December 13):
     The Observers Scheme is one of the means whereby the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) performs its monitoring function. Under the Scheme, observers appointed by the Secretary for Security may, on a pre-arranged or surprise basis, attend the interviews conducted by the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) of the Hong Kong Police Force in connection with investigation of reportable complaints by CAPO and observe the collection of evidence conducted by CAPO in respect of such investigations (collectively referred to as observations). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:
(1) the number of observations carried out by the observers and the number of complaints they involved, in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by whether such observations were carried out on (i) a pre-arranged basis or (ii) surprise basis;
(2) in respect of the observations carried out on (i) a pre-arranged basis and (ii) surprise basis respectively, the largest, smallest and average numbers of observations carried out by the observers in each of the past three years; and
(3) given that the findings of a public opinion survey conducted by IPCC in 2017 showed that only 45 per cent of the respondents expressed confidence in IPCC, whether IPCC will (i) review the effectiveness of its work, (ii) propose amending the relevant legislation to enable the authorities to appoint more observers and engage full-time observers, and (iii) adopt other measures with an aim to strengthen its monitoring function, so as to boost public confidence in both IPCC and the entire police complaints system; if IPCC will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) is a statutory body established according to the IPCC Ordinance. It shoulders important roles in the existing two-tier police complaints handling system, including the review of investigation reports of reportable complaints and the relevant information, in order to ensure that the relevant complaints would be handled in a fair and impartial manner.
     The Observers Scheme of the IPCC aims at strengthening the monitoring function of the IPCC and assisting in observing the way the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) handles and investigates reportable complaints. Under the Observers Scheme, observers appointed by the Secretary for Security may attend interviews and observe collection of evidence in connection with CAPO's investigation of reportable complaints. As far as practicable, CAPO will notify the IPCC in advance any impending interview or collection of evidence to facilitate the IPCC Secretariat in notifying the observers the relevant arrangements. Apart from prearranged observations, observers can also attend and observe investigations without prior appointment. The role of an observer is primarily to observe and report. Based on fair and impartial principles and to avoid affecting the process of an interview or collection of evidence, an observer would not interfere or offer any personal opinions while observing. After each observation, the observer will submit to the IPCC a report stating whether the interview or collection of evidence was conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Should any irregularities be reported, the IPCC will follow up with CAPO. All persons who are to be interviewed by CAPO in connection with a reportable complaint can request an observer to be present during the interview. Upon receipt of such a request, the IPCC will endeavour to make relevant arrangements.
     The various parts of the question are replied as follow:
(1) In the past three years (2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17),  the observers of the IPCC conducted 2 259 (including 1 764 interviews and 495 collection of evidence), 1 704 (including 1 403 interviews and 301 collection of evidence) and 1 817 (including 1 570 interviews and 247 collection of evidence) times of observations respectively. Among which, 17, 15 and 18 times were surprise observations while the remaining ones were scheduled.
(2) The IPCC Ordinance has not specified the upper limits of the number of IPCC observers nor observations to be conducted.  Currently, there are 109 observers in the IPCC. All of them noted, when they were appointed, that they would have to conduct at least four observations every year during their two-year tenure. In the past three years, each observer on average conducted 21, 15 and 17 observations respectively on an annual basis. They covered 88 per cent of the notifications on interviews or collection of evidence issued by CAPO to the IPCC.
(3) The IPCC has all along been striving to enhance its efficiency in reviewing complaints, making recommendations on improving Police's services proactively, enhancing the Observers Scheme, stepping up governance and administrative efforts, and enhancing legal support and research, application of information technology, analysis of complaint statistics, etc. To discharge its relevant statutory functions in a more effective manner, the IPCC also endeavoured to increase the transparency of its work by disseminating information through different channels as well as communicating with different stakeholders proactively, with a view to enabling public understanding on the IPCC's role, functions as well as the principles and prudent attitude it adopts when reviewing cases. According to the result of the IPCC 2017 Public Opinion Survey, improvements were seen in the areas of public confidence in, perception of and satisfaction with the IPCC as compared with the previous year. Fifty-five per cent of the respondents felt positive about the IPCC's image and the satisfaction rate on the IPCC rose to 60.5. According to the Government's understanding, the IPCC will in future continue to optimise the procedures and efficiency for reviewing complaints, and enhance the depth and quality of vetting through deepening the research work. Externally, the IPCC will enhance exchanges with stakeholders from different sectors and release more information through online platforms, with a view to increasing the transparency of its work, strengthening public confidence in the work of the IPCC and the police complaints system, and upholding the fairness and impartiality of the police complaints system.

Ends/Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:35