Hong Kong prison authorities to challenge court ruling on hair cuts for men

Authorities are thought to have argued that judge erred in concluding that differential treatment was based on ground of sex instead of prison discipline

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 11:00pm

The prison authorities have mounted a legal challenge against a court ruling that found their decision to shear lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of his signature locks during his brief incarceration in 2014 to be unlawful, leaving the fate of 8,000 inmates’ hair hanging in the balance.

In reply to a Post inquiry, the Correctional Services Department said it had scrutinised the Court of First Instance judgment on Leung’s case.

“After consultation, the Department of Justice filed an appeal against the court ruling,” a Correctional Services Department spokesman said.

It declined to say what grounds it would use in its challenge, nor whether it would put in place any measures to comply with the court order before its appeal is heard.

In a judgment handed down on January 17, Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung ruled in favour of the radical legislator, who challenged the lawfulness of the decision and relevant orders requiring him and all male prisoners – but not female inmates – to have their hair cut while imprisoned.

But the judge said orders made following his ruling would only take effect on June 1, allowing the department enough time to consider whether the department should make internal arrangements in light of the judgment.

It is understood that the department is seeking to set aside Au’s orders in its appeal application filed on Tuesday.

The authorities are thought to have argued that the judge erred in concluding that the differential treatment was based on the ground of sex instead of the maintenance of prison security and discipline.

The department may also contest Au’s findings that male prisoners were subject to less favourable treatment.

It may argue that any discriminatory treatment was justified and authorised by law for the preservation of custodial discipline.

Apart from the legal action, a senior source in the correctional service earlier told the Post that compulsory hair cuts for all inmates were among options on the table, but it might provoke “unimaginable consequences”.

The idea, aimed at drawing an equal line between female and male inmates, is understood to have drawn a strong reaction from the 1,800 women prisoners.

Last week, prison chiefs said no decision had yet been made.