Outdoor detention cage to be banned, Legco told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2005, 12:00am

An outdoor cage that was used to house 40 suspected mainland prostitutes will not be used again, the security chief said yesterday.

Suspects would be moved to other stations if the lockup at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station overflowed, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong told legislators.

He expressed regret for the detention of the women in the 14-square-metre cage between the police station building and its car park on June 13. Pictures of the women inside the cage appeared on the front pages of many newspapers the next day.

Responding to criticism from lawmakers and community groups yesterday, Mr Lee insisted that the police had done their best to deal with the suspects - among 295 women arrested in an anti-vice operation in West Kowloon - in a humane manner.

This sparked an angry response from legislator Leung Kwok-hung, who said: 'The detainees were exposed to the glaring sun and the pouring rain. It reminded me of some ancient means of punishment. Would you not call this inhuman?'

Mr Lee asserted that the force had no intention of infringing on the detainees' privacy. He also stressed that the outdoor cage was only used once or twice every year to detain suspects temporarily, and it was neither open to the public nor could be seen from outside.

'This is not a common practice. Suspects are only detained in temporary cells when all other available detention cells run out of space, and they were there only for a short period before they were charged, granted bail or released.'

Police have 247 and 125 formal detention cells respectively for male and female suspects, enough to house 1,694 people. An extra 50 temporary indoor cells are used for backup in case of a mass arrest. If they are full as well, police then turn to outdoor cells.

Mr Lee conceded there was room for improvement in the handling of detainees and the condition of cells, but said budget constraints could be a hurdle to improvements.