Jail term shock for young killers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 January, 1998, 12:00am

Young murderers held at the discretion of the Chief Executive face up to 30 years in jail without any chance of remission, it was revealed last night.

Prisoners were told of the sentences, which in several cases are far longer than anticipated, in letters from Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang.

The news comes as a major blow to campaigners fighting to win more lenient jail terms for the men, who were all under 18 when they committed crimes.

Concerned prison authorities have relaxed visiting rights, fearing the prospect of leaving prison as old men could make some inmates suicidal.

'They feel they don't have a future,' said ousted legislator and prisoner campaigner Leung Yiu-chung.

'They say, 'I would prefer to commit suicide. Why not give me a death sentence rather than keeping me in prison?' ' The prisoners are responsible for some of Hong Kong's most heinous murders, including the brutal killing of students Nicola Myers and Kenneth McBride on Braemar Hill in 1985.

Cheung Yau-hang and Won Sam-lung, two members of the Braemar Hill gang, are being held at Stanley Prison.

Another inmate, Cheung Ka-man, strangled his 13-year-old girlfriend in 1992.

The prisoners' families do not want to reveal their exact terms, pending the Chief Executive's final decision on their sentences. It is believed they range from 25 to 30 years and that no prisoner will be eligible for early release for good behaviour or any other remission.

Prisoners have a month to make written representations.

'The Security Branch said Mr Tung could give an answer during 1998. But he is not bound by any time,' Mr Leung said.

'These recommendations are the minimum terms. Once the prisoners finish the terms, it does not mean they will be released immediately.' Mr Leung said their situations were now far worse than they faced under the pre-handover government.

'The new system has deprived them of their right to be reviewed by the Long-Term Prison Sentences Review Board every two years. Now their cases will only be reviewed after finishing the minimum terms, that is 30 years in some cases.' The Long-Term Prison Sentences Review Ordinance came into force on June 30. Under the ordinance, the Chief Justice is required to recommend to the Chief Executive the minimum jail terms for each prisoner within six months.

According to the Security Branch, there are 15 prisoners who were sentenced for murders committed in their teens and are now held at the discretion of the Chief Executive.

Twelve other cases involve adults sentenced to life imprisonment for offences such as manslaughter and rape.