Hong Kong commission recommends new sexual offences to offer greater protection to child and mentally impaired victims

Proposal also said crimes involving such victims should be gender-neutral

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 11:33pm

A range of new sexual offences proposed by the Law Reform Commission on Tuesday seeks to improve the protection of children and mentally impaired victims, with jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong shores.

The 186-page consultation paper with 41 recommendations also said crimes involving such victims should be gender-neutral.

It proposed the abolishment of gender-specific crimes such as sexual intercourse with a girl under 13, a man committing gross indecency with a mentally incapacitated man, and a man having intercourse with a mentally incapacitated woman.

It also called for the age of consent to be set at 16 – below which sexual activity is unlawful – to address the disparity between the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual buggery, now at 21 and 16 respectively.

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The proposed new laws would broaden the scope of sexual offences against a child, from sexual intercourse to penile or non-penile penetration, and create a specific category of sexual assault that will include sexual touches, ejaculation of semen, or emission of urine or saliva onto a child during sexual activity. New offences are also proposed to tackle potential exploitation of the mentally impaired by those using exploitative means to obtain consent.

The consultation exercise – which runs till February 10 – willpose further questions to the public on whether there should be laws to deal with conduct involving abuse of a position of trust involving persons aged 16 or above but under 18. The panel also recommended that these offenceshave an extraterritorial effect, covering offenders who go abroad to commit such crimes.

The recommendations came on the heels of public concern over legal protection for the mentally impaired after a former nursing home chiefhad his sexual charges dropped partly because his alleged victim was mentally unfit to testify.

Legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a member of the commission’s review of sexual offences subcommittee, said: “Existing legislations, in our view, are outdated and inadequate.”

A new offence on sexual grooming was also recommended to deal with paedophiles who use mobile phones and the internet to gain the trust and confidence of children with the intent of sexually abusing them later on.

Committee chairman Peter Duncan SC said this would protect children before sexual abuse actually occurred. “It would allow police to take early action to investigate suggested cases of potential abuse against children and young persons, and serve as a deterrent to sexual predators,” he added.

Association of Parents of the Severely Mentally Handicapped chairman Lee Chi-yung believed the proposed amendments were insufficient to protect residents in nursing homes.

“Caretakers would not be threatened by the laws as they believe the mentally incapacitated patients would not be able to reveal what had happened to them,” Lee said.

Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam