HKJA succeeds with Judicial Review Police failure to show distinctive identification breaches Bill of Rights

Hong Kong Journalists Association filed a judicial review last year over police officers failing to show identification numbers and the failure of the complaint against police system. High Court ruled today (19 Nov) that, police officers failing to display their distinctive identification is a breach of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.

HKJA welcomes the court’s ruling and urges the government and the police to respond to the court’s suggestions as soon as possible. The Commissioner of Police should immediately instruct frontline officers to clearly display their UI number when carrying out non-covert duties. The relevant authorities should also establish an independent investigation mechanism to deal with the public complaints against the police.

According to the court’s ruling, the Commissioner of Police failed to establish and maintain an effective system to ensure that every police officer deployed in carrying out non-covert duties in Operation TIDERIDER wears and prominently displays an identification number or mark which is unique to that officer violates Article 3 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. The court also ruled that the current two-tier mechanism for handling complaints against the Force in Hong Kong fails to meet the requirement of independent investigation under the Bill.

“CAPO cannot, in my view, be regarded as practically independent of the force,” Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming remarked, saying that Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) comprises career officers who would return to serve in other departments of the force after working a few years at the complaints section. Chow J also said that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) lacks the necessary investigative powers of its own, and that it cannot overturn CAPO decisions and it has ultimately no power to make any binding determination.

The judgment also mentioned that the Human Rights Law guarantees victims of police violence have the right to reasonably identify the police officers who committed violence against them so that they can file civil or private lawsuits on their own. Therefore, law enforcement agencies should take measures to ensure that every police officer on duty must display his or her unique identification. Although the police have set up arrangements such as call sign cards and Alpha ID since last year, neither of them is unique to each police officer. Instead, they will be reused and redistributed to different police officers in different operations. In addition, there are evidence showing more than one police officer using the same call sign at the scene of an incident, and even some police officers simply did not display the call sign.  As such, the court ruled that the current practice of the Commissioner requiring police officers (other than STC officers) to wear and display the Call-Signs and STC officers to wear and display the Alpha IDs when deployed in Operation TIDERIDER fails to meet the standard of the effectiveness of investigation required under the procedural limb of Article 3.

Hong Kong Journalists Association

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