Long-term inmates await decision
Twenty-seven prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or death will be told their recommended minimum jail terms over the next few days, it was announced yesterday.
Among them are 15 prisoners who were sentenced to death for murders committed in their teens and now held at the discretion of the chief executive.
The remaining 12 cases involve adults sentenced to life imprisonment for such offences as manslaughter and rape.
Under the Long-Term Prison Sentences Review Ordinance which came in force on June 30, the Chief Justice is required to recommend to the Chief Executive the minimum jail terms for each prisoner within six months.
Families of the prisoners held at Executive Discretion have criticised the Government for waiting until the last minute to move.
In a move to pacify their concerns, Deputy Secretary for Security Alex Fong Chi-wai said prisoners would be told of their recommended minimum terms in the next few days.
The recommendations were submitted to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa on December 15.
But Mr Fong said having a minimum jail term did not mean immediate release.
'Prisoners who have served their minimum terms have merely completed the punitive part of their sentence and this does not imply immediate release,' he said.
He said whether the inmates' sentences would be changed into determinate periods would be considered by the Long-Term Prison Sentences Review Board.
Prisoners would be given a chance to make written representations to Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang and Mr Tung before a final decision was made.
Mr Tung is expected to finalise the minimum terms before the end of this year. Fourteen prisoners held at the chief executive's discretion are still waiting for release dates.
The pre-handover government announced release dates for only six of 20 such prisoners. One was released to a half-way house but was not given a definitive term.