LCQ19: Registered vehicle owners' obligation to give drivers' information
In accordance with section 63(1) of the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374), the registered owner of a vehicle involved in an alleged offence or an accident shall on demand give to a police officer information about the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence or the accident. However, some members of the transport industry have pointed out that a registered vehicle owner who fails to give the driver's information is generally only sentenced by the court to a fine of several thousand dollars, and since the investigation work on the traffic accident concerned has been completed and the ultimate responsibility for the accident cannot be determined by the court, the victims of the accident are unable to lodge claims for their losses. Moreover, some members of the public have relayed that when they complained about persons using vehicles without valid hire car permits to provide the service of carriage of passengers for reward, the Police also ceased to follow up their complaints because of the registered vehicle owners' failure to give the drivers' information. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of cases in which the registered vehicle owners were on demand under section 63(1) of Cap. 374 to give the drivers' information and, among them, the number of cases in which the registered vehicle owners were convicted for failing to give the drivers' information, as well as the penalties imposed; the number of cases in which the investigation work on the alleged offences were discontinued because of the registered vehicle owners' failure to give the drivers' information, with a breakdown by the type of cases, in the past three years;
(2) as there are views pointing out that the provision on the defence for registered vehicle owners' failure to give drivers' information in section 63(5) of Cap. 374 will result in law-breaking drivers getting away without being punished and difficulties for victims in accidents to lodge claims, what measures the authorities have put in place to ensure that the defence provision will not be abused; and
(3) as there are views that registered vehicle owners should have grasped the information about the operation of their vehicles unless they have evidence to prove that their vehicles have been stolen, whether the Government will consider amending the relevant legislation to plug the relevant loopholes to ensure that drivers who have committed the alleged offences are brought to justice, lest they jeopardise other road users; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In accordance with section 63(1) of the Road Traffic Ordinance (the Ordinance), where the driver of a vehicle is suspected of having committed an offence under the Ordinance or, where owing to the presence of a vehicle on a road an accident occurs, any person, including both the registered owner and the person suspected of being the driver of the vehicle, shall on demand made within six months after the date of the alleged offence or accident give to a police officer the name, address and driving licence number of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence or the accident, or of the last driver of the vehicle prior to the accident, and his relationship, if any, to any such driver. Section 63(5) and (6) provides that any person who contravenes section 63(1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine at level 3 (i.e. $10,000) and to imprisonment for six months, unless he can show that he did not know, and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained, the name or address or driving licence number of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence or accident or of the last driver of the vehicle prior to the accident. Having consulted the Department of Justice and the Hong Kong Police Force (Police), my reply to the question raised by Hon Frankie Yick is as follows:
(1) The Police does not maintain statistics of demanding for driver's information in accordance with section 63(1) of the Ordinance, the number of convictions for violating the provision, as well as the number of cases where the investigations were discontinued as a result.
(2) and (3) The Government agrees that a registered owner should have a certain degree of responsibility with regard to who drives the vehicle under his name, but understands that the registered owner may not actually have full control of all operational information of his vehicle. Considering that the alleged offence against the driver concerned under the Ordinance may involve a serious offence, to strike a proper balance, the current section 63 of the Ordinance provides for the offence and penalty where a registered owner fails to provide a driver's information in respect of the vehicle concerned, but at the same time provides a defence provision.
As regards the use of the defence under section 63(5), the court will decide whether to accept the defence for registered owners based on the relevant evidence or proof in each case. In addition, when investigating a traffic offence or accident, apart from requesting the registered owner to provide information on the driver who may have been involved in an alleged offence or an accident under section 63 of the Ordinance, the Police will, depending on the nature of the case, use different means to search for evidence. In other words, even if the Police cannot obtain the information of the driver who may have been involved in an alleged offence or an accident from the registered owner, there are still ways for the Police to find out the cause of the accident through other feasible means and to prosecute the suspected offender, so as to combat the behaviour that violate traffic laws and protect the safety of road users.
The Government will continue to review the related provisions from time to time, taking into account the views of various stakeholders, including road traffic related trades and road users.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:30
Issued at HKT 12:30