Young killers find work with man who helped free them

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung launched a campaign in 1997 to win definite sentences for a group of young murderers detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

He has since taken his concern further by employing four of them as his assistants. One has worked for him for nearly three years. Mr Leung hopes the jobs will help the former inmates contribute to society.

The four are employed at the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre, led by Mr Leung.

Keith Kwan, 35, has been at the centre since winning his freedom in November. He decided to work for the grass-roots rights group because he wanted to help the disadvantaged.

Mr Kwan earns about HK$6,000 as a community organiser. 'I was offered work as a bookkeeper with a trading company and the salary was higher, but it is more meaningful to work for Mr Leung because I can help people in need.'

He said he also wanted to repay Mr Leung for helping him.

Mr Kwan was convicted of murder after a gang fight in April 1990 when he was 17. He was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure and, after 1997, at the chief executive's discretion.

Mr Leung launched a campaign before the handover to fight for a definite sentence for prisoners convicted of murder when they were under 18.

In December 1997, 15 young killers were given minimum terms of 15 to 30 years. But there was no maximum term, so in effect they remained in indefinite detention. Mr Kwan was given a 20-year minimum term.

In September 2002, the Court of First Instance ruled the chief executive did not have the power to set such a minimum term.

Legislation in July 2004 gave the secretary for justice six months to apply for minimum sentences and empowered a judge to set a minimum sentence or change an indefinite sentence to a fixed term for juvenile murderers. In November 2004 Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee, of the Court of First Instance, gave Mr Kwan a fixed term of 27 years and he was released in November.

A remorseful Mr Kwan said he wanted to learn from Mr Leung. 'I admire his perseverance and righteousness very much ... He only invited trouble for himself by helping us.'

Three young murderers are likely to be released in the next two years.

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