Police urge young inmates claiming abuse to provide details so officers can follow up

Four prison work unions call allegations ‘unproven’ and slam damage done to staff reputation and morale

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 3:42pm

Police have urged young inmates claiming to have been abused by prison staff to contact the department and provide more information in the wake of recent news reports on the issue.

Meanwhile four prison officers’ work unions issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing anger over what they call “unproven” claims and allegations.

A group of former inmates have given personal accounts of physical and psychological abuse to local media in recent weeks. On Monday, local media outlet HK01 published interviews with 50 young ex-prisoners who detailed the abuses they claimed to have suffered during their time in correctional institutions, prompting the city’s correctional authority to pass the information to police for possible follow-up action.

A force insider told the Post that officers had their hands tied if the victims did not come forward to provide details of their cases.

“The victims should at least tell us when and where the alleged abuses took place, how and by whom they were bullied,” the source said. “It is difficult for us to launch an investigation at this stage if we do not have any information to trace.”

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The four work unions slammed the allegations, saying they had been made without solid evidence, destroying the reputation of prison staff and dealing a severe blow to their morale.

“[The claims] even wilfully trampled on our related professions, including those in psychological and medical services ... We feel regretful and angry,” the joint statement read.

“Since the allegations were serious ... we understand and support the department’s decision to handle the matter seriously so that the investigation can be conducted in a fair and impartial manner.”

Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun and Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung on Monday joined Justices of the Peace Emily Lau Wai-hing and Cyd Ho to call for an independent inquiry into the abuse allegations as the department should not “investigate its own people”.

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Inmates’ complaints against prison staff over issues such as the use of excessive force and abuse of authority are handled by the department’s Complaints Investigation Unit (CIU). The cases are endorsed by the Correctional Services Department Complaints Committee as a check and balance.

According to the department, the unit has received eight complaints from young inmates since 2013. Among them, four were found unsubstantiated and two were found to be false, while another two are still under investigation.

A department spokeswoman said the authority attached “great importance” to officers’ conduct and complaints against them and adopted a “zero-tolerance” attitude towards staff misconduct.

“CIU of CSD will carry out a thorough investigation on each and every complaint, and CSD will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against staff members who have committed any disciplinary offences,” she said.

“Any staff members found to have breached the law will be dealt with seriously by CSD or referred to other law enforcement agencies for follow-up.”