Court told testing of discharged drug rehab inmates only partial pre-2009

Hearing on misconduct told testing of ex-addicts for ketamine, Ecstasy, only started in 2009

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 3:20am

Supervisors of discharged drug-rehabilitation inmates began testing for a wider range of drugs, including ketamine and Ecstasy, in 2009, a Correctional Services Department officer told a court yesterday, prompting a lawyer to question why they had taken so long to do so.

Yu Kwok-sun, chief officer of a drug rehabilitation unit under the department, was testifying at a criminal hearing at Eastern Court involving two officers who were in charge of supervising discharged inmates of the Hei Ling Chau Drug Addiction Treatment Centre. Tang Kwai-man, 48, and Leung Siu-wing, 53, have pleaded guilty to one count each of misconduct in public office for logging false details of visits to former inmates, not being present when they provided urine samples and other infractions. Leung has also admitted switching samples with his own for testing.

While the pair admit the charges, they claim they were acting on the orders of superiors to keep up success rates, exaggerate the numbers of former inmates who found jobs and keep down the relapse figures. To determine whether they acted under orders, the court has been holding a hearing lasting several days.

Testifying for the prosecution, Yu said that in 2009, the department had noticed that former inmates had diversified from using heroin to various other drugs.

"In the past, after taking their urine, we would test it against morphine, methadone, codeine, Ice and cannabis," Yu said under questioning by senior assistant director of public prosecutions Isaac Tam Sze-lok. "Since we realised this tendency for them to take various drugs [we have tested] against more types of drugs… like ketamine and Ecstasy."

He said that from 2009, officers tested urine "against psychotropic drugs for more cases", adding under questioning by the defendants' lawyer, John Reading SC, that it was "done more frequently, in a gradual way".

This, coupled with faster testing, could result in an increase in the number of inmates who had relapsed, he said.

Reading asked why the department only stepped up testing in 2009. "Ketamine abuse has been around for over 10 years, Ecstasy longer, and cocaine abuse has been around since the 19th century," he said. Yu said the use of such drugs had been more common among adolescents.

Yu had been explaining an apparent increase in the relapse rate in 2010. Reading had suggested that this occurred because the defendants were arrested and the unit could no longer suppress relapse figures. Reading noted that while 2008 and 2009 saw 55 and 17 relapses, respectively, in January to April 2010 alone there were 155 cases.

The hearing continues before Deputy Magistrate Allen Wyeth.