Drugs rehabilitation officer denies ordering fake urine samples

Senior superintendent is accused of ordering urine samples falsified, so as to make department's figures look good in fight for budget

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 2:46am

A senior prison officer denied in court yesterday that he ordered urine samples falsified to make a drug treatment centre appear more successful.

Yuen Shu-fan, a senior superintendent of rehabilitation, was testifying in Eastern Court at a hearing to determine whether correctional services officer Tang Kwai-man, 48, and assistant Leung Siu-wing, 54, were acting under instructions when they breached the terms of their duties in dealing with previously released inmates.

Yuen denied ordering the two not to submit urine samples containing traces of drugs that they obtained from inmates released from the Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre. Minutes of a meeting in March 2008 at which the instructions were alleged to have been issued carried no such record, the court heard.

"I do not know [if there is such a practice]. I would have stopped it if I had learned of it," he said.

The pair have pleaded guilty to one charge each of misconduct in public office. But Deputy Magistrate Allen Wyeth is seeking to establish before sentencing them whether they were acting under instructions.

They were arrested in 2009 by anti-bribery officers for falsifying rehabilitation records.

Leung, who joined the Correctional Services Department in 1977 and took early retirement last year because of pressure from the case, told the court that senior officers had told him as early as 1993, when he joined the department's rehabilitation division, to swap his own urine with samples from released inmates suspected to have taken drugs, so as to make the rehabilitation figures look good.

"We would breach internal guidelines and face disciplinary action [if we did not]," he said.

His job included supervising former inmates released from the centre to monitor their behaviour for a year and recall them to the centre if they breached any rule, which supervisors did not wish to see. Yuen also denied that he had told officers that if they needed to recall former inmates to detention centres for drug offences officers should make up other reasons for the recall.

Yuen rejected a suggestion by John Reading SC, acting for both defendants, that good figures would help the Correctional Services Department fight for a bigger budget.

Leung suggested that every officer would swap urine samples, as they were repeatedly reminded to do so in monthly meetings. He said supervisors repeated the order when they found discrepancies in the figures.

Leung rejected a suggestion from senior assistant director of public prosecutions Isaac Tam Sze-lok that he was stopping urine samples being found with drug traces so as to avoid a lot of paperwork.

Reading said figures in a Legislative Council paper this year on violations of supervision orders in 2009, the year of the arrests, were a "load of rubbish".

The paper said 1,266 former inmates violated the orders in 2010 and 1,104 did so last year, but only 462 breached them in 2009.

The case was adjourned until Monday.