Police released more than half of suspects arrested in connection with thefts onboard in-bound flights to Hong Kong in the first half of this year, due to ambiguity in aviation laws.
Officers did not press charges against 25 out of 39 suspects arrested in 50 such cases, mainly because their alleged crimes took place on overseas-registered planes not covered by Hong Kong's Theft Ordinance.
However, a breakthrough in closing the loophole means officers are now hitting a 100 per cent prosecution rate, when evidence suffices.
Last week, the Post reported that the Department of Justice advised in June that police could charge suspects for disorderly conduct under the Aviation Security Ordinance, which applies to non-Hong Kong flights.
Figures show that since adopting that advice police have prosecuted 14 of 17 cases. The three unsuccessful cases were dropped for lack of evidence. Last year, there were three prosecutions.
The airport district has recorded 64 cases of inflight thefts this year, a surge from 21 cases last year. But the number dropped to 14 cases since June, when police closed the loophole.
Airport district police commander Siu Chak-yee said the new approach was a deterrent. "Under the aviation security law, we can prosecute all arrestees, regardless of whether the offences take place on locally registered or non-locally registered flights."