Ban on naming suspects 'puzzling'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2001, 12:00am

It was absurd for police to stop releasing the names of suspects and victims from crime reports, a legislator said yesterday.

Non-affiliated Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who represents the legal sector, said the move would turn such reports into a cluster of mere signs and symbols.

'It is a move that will boost government control [of the flow of information] at the expense of people's right to know. A name is an identification. Why is it a privacy [issue]? I find the move puzzling,' she said.

Ms Ng, a regular newspaper columnist, asked whether reporters would now have to refer to people involved in crime reports in figures.

'The question is: what are you reporting if the five 'Ws' [what, when, where, why and who] in news reports are to be replaced by mere signs?' she said. 'It will amount to stripping news reports of the most elementary information.'

Democrat James To Kun-sun said he did not think the decision to stop releasing names in crime reports to the media was a 'good balance' between privacy protection and people's right to know.

Police say the ban, which follows advice from government lawyers, will provide better privacy protection. The new rule means the identities of victims, informants and suspects in any criminal investigation will not be released until charges are formally laid in an open court.

Previously, police had given out the surnames of suspects and only banned the identity of victims of sex-related crimes.

Only sexes and ages will now be disclosed to the media in police cases.