No need for verbal abuse law: police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2003, 12:00am

Increased pressure is to blame for surge in anti-social behaviour, commissioner says

Police Commissioner Tsang Yam-pui yesterday said there was no urgent need to legislate against verbal abuse of officers despite a disturbing surge in 'criminal anti-social behaviour'.

Mr Tsang was commenting on the rise in crimes sparked by personal grievances or economic woes in the first six months this year, including assault of police officers which soared 64.8 per cent over the same period last year to 300.

'We can see that an increase in personal and social pressure is fuelling a tendency towards violence or the propensity to challenge authority,' he said.

'There has been a clear and significant increase in crimes involving violence.'

Describing the phenomenon as 'criminal anti-social behaviour', Mr Tsang said personal frustrations and pressures were the key factors behind such offences.

'Unemployment, disenchantment with what is happening in society as well as overall economic problems have undoubtedly contributed to an increase in those types of offences,' he said.

Police figures released last week showed cases of people resisting arrest also rose 12.8 per cent to 150, while serious assault cases went up by 10.7 per cent to 2,677.

Cases of criminal intimidation and arson both rose 23 per cent to 503 and 400 cases respectively, while cases of criminal damage and disorder in public places both surged nearly 28 per cent to 3,843 and 680 cases respectively.

While cases of verbal abuse of police officers have hit the headlines in the past few months, Mr Tsang said the force would only propose legislating against this if the situation deteriorated.

He said there were already laws against the use of offensive language in places such as the Mass Transit Railway and Chek Lap Kok airport. The Airport Authority prohibits the use of 'threatening, abusive, obscene or offensive language' and behaviour that is 'riotous, disorderly, indecent or offensive'. People who breach the rules can be hit with fines of up to $2,000.

The MTR bylaw also prohibits the use of offensive and obscene language in its trains and stations. Any contravention carries a maximum fine of $5,000.

Mr Tsang said these regulations could be used as a model in the future if it was decided to legislate against the verbal abuse of officers, but he said he did not see an urgent need for such a law.

'I don't think the situation is so bad that I need to ask for legislation right away. And I'm sure when the economic situation improves, then the mood of the general society will also improve,' Mr Tsang said.

Mr Tsang said the force was taking steps to curb the trend, including issuing guidelines for frontline officers on how to deal with challenges from criminal groups or members of the public.

He said officers were instructed to deal with challenges from criminals 'strictly' and positively.

But officers were advised to defuse public confrontations instead of using force.