Discipline hearing for jail riot officer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 1999, 12:00am

A warder is facing disciplinary action for suspected use of undue force while trying to quell violence at a Lantau prison last summer, according to an inquiry report.

A full report on the Correctional Services inquiry is expected to be released on completion of a police investigation into the clash between 120 inmates and prison officers at Ma Po Ping prison, including the previously suppressed allegation against the officer.

Two Correctional Services officers and 19 inmates were injured on July 27 when warders tried to prevent a group fight from brewing by dispersing the prisoners.

It is understood police have not found sufficient evidence to press charges against any prison officer, despite inmates lodging 70 complaints of officers using unnecessary force.

The inquiry board, headed by Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services Leung Kam-yau, found that only one prison officer armed with a baton might have used excessive force.

A disciplinary hearing will be held but the officer will remain on duty unless he is found guilty.

Last August, the Security Bureau released a summary of the inquiry report.

This concluded the use of force 'was the minimum necessary and its use was justified in controlling a disturbance involving more than 60 prisoners'.

It is understood the assistant officer facing disciplinary action is accused of using his baton to beat prisoners after they had squatted down.

Senior management of Ma Po Ping have been admonished for inadequacies they displayed in handling the incident.

Head of the prison, Tai Wing-kin - who was acting senior superintendent at the time of the clash - has been reprimanded and transferred to Pik Uk prison.

Sources said prison officials had failed to bring out riot shields, which are believed to be more effective than batons alone.

While reinforcements were summoned, officers separated prisoners by forming a cordon and holding batons horizontally at both ends to strengthen the human wall.

But clashes started when prisoners tried to snatch the batons and some officers were attacked.

The report summary in August criticised the management for deciding to meet to discuss strategy for handling the prisoners, leaving direct supervision of the situation to junior officers.

Gang fights are common at Ma Po Ping, where more than 50 prisoners were injured in an incident last week. More than 40 per cent of the 690 inmates have been transferred, and manpower at Ma Po Ping has been increased.