My Take

How HK police mishandled case of autistic man accused of manslaughter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 1:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 1:03am

Hong Hong's police have one of the largest public relations budgets of any government department. Given their army of PR minders, I don't understand how they could have so mishandled the public outcry over the mishandling of the case of an autistic man wrongly accused of the manslaughter of an elderly man out walking his dog.

The official auditor should really look at whether the force has retained too many overpaid PR amateurs.

It ought to be textbook public relations:

1. Say sorry or express regrets.

2. Announce a probe to look into what went wrong.

3. Promise to rectify the problem, and train officers to be more sensitive in dealing with people with special needs.

All these could have been done from the start. Instead, police have been dragging their feet. Still, however reluctantly, they have finally reached stage two. Now complete the full PR exercise and move on!

The man in question is not just autistic but has the mental ability of a young child. That should not have been too hard to spot even if his investigators weren't trained specialists. Instead, from transcripts that have been disclosed, the officers, having felt he was different, appeared to ask leading questions to pressure him to confess to the killing. That's not only unethical, but lazy detective work.

Still, we should cut the police some slack. They may have messed up the investigation and the public outcry it has provoked, but are paying for the alleged sins committed during the Occupy rallies. Many people have been upset about police anti-Occupy tactics and are dying for an opportunity to put the force in a bad light. The police duly obliged with their bungled investigation of the autistic man.

A few pan-democratic lawmakers have been busy helping the family of the former suspect to give police a hard time, including organising press conferences and public rallies that involved hundreds. None of these helped the man or his family, except to further the lawmakers' own political agenda.

It's time for the family to drop the lawmakers and hire a real lawyer to seek compensation. Surely they have a strong legal case.