POLICE said the lenient sentencing imposed by the courts on road racing had weakened any deterrent effects of the legislation. The Regional Commander of Kowloon West police, Mr Peter Lee Lam-chuen, made the criticism at the Legislative Council's security panel yesterday. ''In relation to the adequacy of police power, we consider by and large the law and penalties as well as power available to investigate illegal road racing are sufficient,'' he said. ''However, the maximum fine of $10,000, 12 months' imprisonment as well as disqualification of licence for 12 months have never been imposed by the court. ''This fact, and the very real difficulty in obtaining evidence sufficient to convince the court that racing is taking place clearly do not have the desired deterring effect.'' The maximum penalty the court has so far imposed in the past three years was imprisonment of seven months and disqualification for a year. Illegal racing has drawn the attention of the public after the hit-and-run killing of two pedestrians during an illegal road race in Tsim Sha Tsui recently. The accident happened in the presence of a squad of 40 officers, most of them in plain clothes, who were accused of standing by while the race, involving two four-tonne trucks, took place. Mr Lee said the police had carried out 499 operations to combat road racing, of which 260 were covert. He said covert operations, as in the one planned at the race where the deaths occurred, were necessary. ''You can't only carry out overt operations only,'' he said. ''We have to successfully prosecute some participants to deter other racers. That's why we need covert operations to gather evidence for prosecution.'' Only 22 successful prosecutions were chalked up for road racing. Other prosecutions were for less serious charges like careless driving and speeding. He said the number of persons prosecuted under that offence was 44. The number of people convicted was 38. ''The offence of road racing requires such exact details to prove [the crime] beyond reasonable doubt. ''Evidence must be obtained to show that two or more vehicles are actually racing against each other,'' he added. He said the police had also to prove that vehicles were running at excessively high speeds and they were overtaking each other regularly. United Democrats Mr James To Kun-sun suggested the Government should introduce a new offence which allowed much heavier punishment for racing which resulted in hurting or killing persons. Another Co-operative Resources Centre legislator, Mrs Miriam Lau Kin-yee, said the maximum penalty for road racing should be further raised as a message to courts for heavier punishment.