Police put faith in speed guns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2008, 12:00am

Call for a suspension unrealistic: top officer

A call by lawmakers yesterday for the suspension of laser speed detectors - until police can find out if there is anything wrong with their guidelines for using the guns - was branded unrealistic by a top officer, who said the force would continue to use them.

The motion calling for the suspension was passed by the Legislative Council's transport panel. It comes amid controversy after a tycoon's speeding charge was reduced when his defence team challenged the way the laser gun was used.

Former chief superintendent for traffic Blake Hancock said laser guns were responsible for half of all speeding convictions.

'The laser gun is an integral part of our enforcement against speeding, and we will continue to use it,' said Mr Hancock, who recently took over as commander of Wan Chai district.

'It is unrealistic to expect us to stop taking robust action against one of the most serious factors for traffic accidents.'

The motion, proposed by lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, followed questions about the guns' reliability after the charge against Lai Sun Development chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok - allegedly clocked at 114km/h in a 50km/h zone - was reduced after a senior constable admitted he had breached procedures.

During the panel meeting and at a press conference afterwards, Mr Hancock insisted the guns were both accurate and reliable. It was not the system that was challenged in court, he said, but whether the internal police guidelines were in line with the manufacturer's manual.

The force has set up a working group, including an independent expert, to review discrepancies between the two and its impact on the system.

Mr Hancock insisted that Senior Constable Chan Tak-cheung did not breach the manual's instructions when he conducted a scope alignment test at 60 metres instead of 200 metres.

Mr Hancock said the test was not a mandatory requirement in the manual, only a step the officer chose to perform as an extra precaution. The 200-metre distance was specified for tests by the manufacturer, not the users. 'The officer was clearly under considerable pressure from the defence in terms of operation of the gun, but as to where [the evidence] fell short, we still need to wait for the court's transcript before we can find out in full,' he said.

The senior superintendent for traffic on New Territories South, Anthony Lam Yiu-wing, refused to say if any other district performed this extra step. 'The manual said the test is only meant to be conducted periodically, so that means it is up to the officer to decide how often he should perform it,' he said.

Since Mr Lam's case, 139 people have applied to police for a review of their speeding convictions. Only one of them was convicted under the same conditions as Mr Lam.

The Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group warned that more applications for a review would be submitted after the Lunar New Year. But Mr Hancock said drivers should specify their reasons for seeking a review and how they pleaded when convicted: mistrust of the laser gun system would not be considered a valid ground for appeal.

Legco will call for another meeting over the matter in about three weeks.