Officers try to close checkpoint loophole

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2002, 12:00am

A senior police official said yesterday the force would discuss with the Immigration Department how to close a loophole that could allow wanted suspects to walk away under the nose of the authorities.

But Deputy Police Commissioner Lau Yuk-kuen said the loophole was more of a technical problem. 'The force will seek legal advice on the issue,' he said.

The Immigration Department has said its staff will no longer detain wanted suspects at border checkpoints. Immigration officers would now notify police if they found wanted people but would not make the arrest. The department sought legal advice and was told officers had no right to arrest police suspects under the Immigration Ordinance.

Officers could only bar suspects from leaving the SAR and tell police. They also will not detain people barred from leaving Hong Kong while under investigation by police.

Many police frontline officers, who were told about the change on Friday, fear this could allow suspects to escape if they do not arrive in time.

Cheung Tat-ming, an assistant law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said the Government should amend the ordinance and close the loophole.

'If a person committed offences not listed in the Immigration Ordinance, immigration officers cannot arrest that person. But for wanted [crime] suspects, even ordinary citizens could make arrests if they believe the person is a wanted criminal,' Professor Cheung said.

He said the Government should consider amending the law and give immigration officers the power to detain suspects.

A government spokesman said immigration officers would still take action to prevent suspects from leaving the SAR.

'There are established and effective mechanisms in the Immigration Department and other law-enforcing agencies to ensure that no suspects could escape,' he said. But Professor Cheung said immigration officers might not be trained and equipped to detain dangerous suspects.