Exco backs curbs on police powers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 1996, 12:00am

The Executive Council yesterday endorsed proposals aimed at preventing abuse of power by police and other law enforcers.

The proposals will restrict police powers to stop and search people and make arrests, and will require suspects to be taken promptly to court.

A public consultation will be carried out before the law is changed. The proposals are expected to draw criticism that they will undermine crime-fighting effectiveness.

A government inter-departmental working group came up with the proposed changes after spending the past four years studying a Law Reform Commission report.

The commission had been asked to examine how Britain's Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 could be introduced in Hong Kong.

A government source said a bill 'to enhance protection of individual rights' had been scheduled to be introduced next March.

It is understood many recommendations of the commission's report on arrest, detention, stop-and-search and seizure have been accepted by the working group, chaired by the Security Branch.

Representatives from the police, Immigration, Customs and Excise, Legal Department and the Independent Commission Against Corruption were involved.

The main proposals are to: Ensure a person is brought before the court the day after he is charged, compared with the current requirement that a hearing is held 'as soon as practicable'; Remove the power of arrest without warrant for crimes which carry less than 12 months in prison; Remove the automatic ability to check a person's criminal record during a random identity check; and, Introduce stiffer restrictions for search warrants and greater checks and balances on the power of seizure.

Exco member Denis Chang Khen-lee, said: 'As the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, what I am concerned with is how to strike a balance between prevention of abuse of power and the effectiveness of law enforcement.'