New rules for police on illegal racers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 July, 2009, 12:00am

New guidelines have been issued to all traffic officers on operations to stop illegal road racing, encouraging an 'evidence collection' approach rather than the use of roadblocks, a senior officer who has seen the guidelines said.

The move to limit roadblocks followed a public outcry over last week's 'human roadblock' incident, in which civilian vehicles were used, he said. But police intended to keep the roadblock strategy as an option.

A police order was issued late last week to traffic officers that favoured 'evidence collection approaches', the officer said. 'This implies that police officers will not use civilian vehicles as roadblocks on highways any more.'

The new guidelines emerged after the 'human roadblock' incident on July 13 in which drivers of three taxis, a truck and a car were ordered by officers to form their vehicles into a roadblock to stop a group of cars racing on Kwun Tong Bypass.

Six of the 14 vehicles racing at speeds of up to 120km/h smashed into the roadblock. Six people were injured and five arrested.

Commissioner of Police Tang King-shing made a public apology after the incident and promised to review procedures to stop car races.

A committee of officers from different traffic regions had been formed to study tactics aimed at deterring illegal road racing, the officer said.

Police would continue to use roadblocks during planned operations against illegal races, but in 'reactive situations', in response to calls from the public about car races, police would not use roadblocks, he said.

'Evidence collection approaches' such as video recording the cars involved was one of the options to tackle illegal racing.

Junior Police Officers' Association chairman Chung Kam-wah said he had noted that a 'modified order' on operations against road racing had been issued recently, supporting the use of video recording on highways.

Some police officers are worried that the new guidelines will encourage illegal racing, given the decreased emphasis on roadblocks, and think various other solutions should be explored.

Checking on garages that might have done racing alterations to vehicles was not enough because, one officer said, six of the cars involved in the 'human roadblock' incident had not been modified at all, but were still powerful enough to be used in such races.

The force is studying the possibility of recommending an increase in penalties for road racing such as tougher jail terms and vehicle confiscation. Participants in a car race on public roads at present face up to a year's jail and a fine of HK$10,000.

Simon Young, director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, said that in jurisdictions such as Canada and Australia, police could confiscate vehicles used in illegal races, even in the absence of a conviction.

'If a group of people are found racing their vehicles, they have already put the public at risk,' Professor Young said, adding that police should stop using civilian vehicles in roadblocks, a practice that was 'clearly wrong'.

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung agreed that the use of video on highways was a positive move. He said he believed police could stop illegal races if they had good intelligence on the events.

Legislative Council security panel chairman Lau Kong-wah said police should check whether or not video of racing cars could be used as evidence in court.


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