The Government has broken anti-discrimination laws in a 'cruel and humiliating way' by barring from jobs people whose parents have suffered mental problems, a court was told yesterday. Three men rejected for positions with the fire service, ambulance service and Customs are seeking more than $7 million damages. Their lawyer, Gerard McCoy SC, said: 'Despite the passage of statutory law by the Government to prevent discrimination, it is a sad irony that it is the Government itself which has failed and failed miserably to comply with these laws.' The men are suing the Secretary for Justice, as representative of the Fire Services Department and Customs and Excise Department, alleging a breach of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance. The court ordered they be identified only by family name. Mr Kwong, 23, applied to be an ambulanceman and Mr Yeung, 21, a fireman in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Both passed all necessary tests but were refused jobs by fire chiefs after they were found to be sons of schizophrenics, the court heard. Mr Wong, 23, was 'abruptly dismissed' by Customs in July 1997, seven weeks after he started his job, after his mother was found to have suffered from schizophrenia, Mr McCoy said. All three were found by the Medical Examination Board to be perfectly sound physically and mentally. Mr McCoy described the recruitment policy adopted by the two departments as 'outdated, unscientific, unlawful and disgraceful'. 'The Government itself felt too ashamed to even tell two of the plaintiffs the real reason why they did not succeed in being able to join the Government,' he said. He told the court the real reason came to light only when the Equal Opportunities Commission stepped in. Leading psychiatric experts from overseas were called to give evidence. Professor Peter McGuffin, director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre in Britain, testified that the three plaintiffs' chances of developing schizophrenia may be higher than the general population by a slight percentage. Mr Yeung had a risk rate of up to four per cent, Mr Wong up to 3.5 per cent and Mr Kwong up to 3.3 per cent, said the professor. The general population had a risk rate of up to 1.5 per cent. But schizophrenia normally developed at the age of 14 to 15 and rarely occurred after 45, he said. The hearing before District Court Judge Donald Christie continues today.