Hong Kong police pledge not to prosecute drivers in ‘human shield’ case
Force expresses ‘regret’ for trouble caused to motorists who obeyed police orders during fatal car chase in February
Hong Kong police have expressed regret for the trouble caused to three drivers who had been told they could face prosecution after obeying police orders to help end a car chase by reportedly acting as “human shields” to obstruct the target vehicle.
In a 90-minute meeting with the affected motorists and lawmaker James To Kun-sun on Wednesday night, New Territories North regional commander Kwok Yam-yung also pledged that the force would not sue the trio.
On February 11, a police car chase in Fanling ended in a crash in which two men were killed and three other people injured. Traffic police officers had spotted a seven-seater car changing lanes recklessly and cutting in front of other vehicles at speed. The car wove through traffic along Fanling Highway then flipped over after hitting three other cars and a road divider near Dawning Views residential estate.
The driver of the target vehicle and his male passenger, aged 37 and 26, died. Two men and a woman in two of the three other civilian cars were injured. An officer in pursuit on a motorcycle was also hurt.
To accused police of using civilian drivers as “human shields”, and the controversy surrounding the case deepened after the department issued formal notices of intended prosecution to the affected motorists.
The force previously said it was its legal responsibility to issue such notices in the early stages of a traffic accident investigation. The notices had been served to all drivers involved, including the police officers in the chase.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung also said last week that this was only standard procedure, but his remarks sparked further outrage.
In a statement issued after the meeting on Wednesday, the force said: “Police express regret for the trouble brought to the three affected drivers due to the issuance of the notices. Police will not prosecute the three affected drivers.”
It added that the department was reviewing issues involving vehicle pursuits, the setting up of roadblocks and the issuance of intended prosecution notices.
To noted however that Kwok had not promised that the notices issued to the three drivers would be withdrawn. The regional commander said, according to To, there was no precedent for such withdrawals, and that the force would need to first consult the Department of Justice.
To said after the meeting: “[We] hope that police will immediately promise they will not use ‘human shields’ until their review is finished. If they find that the practice is still necessary, then they might need to tell the public under what extreme circumstances the practice will be conducted.”
He said Kwok had not made a promise on this, saying only that the suggestion would be relayed to the department.
Regarding financial compensation, the force said in the statement that it would continue to keep in contact with the drivers or their legal representatives while looking into how to speed up or simplify the procedures for making claims with the relevant departments.
Kwok promised that a response would be given on the issue of compensation a week after all the relevant documents had been collected, To said.