“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”
1. On 10 July 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Council (“IPCC”) has decided by a majority of 12-6 that the complaint against Superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai, for assaulting pedestrians on 26 November 2014 in Mongkok is substantiated. On 18 July 2015, it was reported that the Complaints Against Police Office (“CAPO”) disagreed with the IPCC and counter-suggested that the decisions regarding the alleged assault should be amended as “Not Fully Substantiated” and the allegation of abuse of power as “Substantiated other than report”.
2. In reply to the media, the secretary of the IPCC stated that the CAPO raised some new viewpoints on the matter. Therefore, the secretary suggested to the members of the IPCC to convene a meeting to decide whether it is necessary to revisit the case for further discussion or to vote again on the matter on 20 July 2015. On 22 July 2015, the IPCC rightly upheld its decision and rejected the request to re-evaluate its decision.
3. PLG notes that the IPCC does not have the power of directing prosecution, investigation or even disciplinary actions against complained police officers, or conduct investigation themselves. What it can do is to review the investigation carried out by the CAPO, a subordinate department of the police force, which can hardly be seen to be independent for its purpose, and put forward non-binding opinions and recommendations to the Commissioner of Police and the Chief Executive for his final decision if the CAPO and the IPCC cannot agree with each other on a decision. The IPCC is hence regrettably weak. If IPCC’s decision is reversed by the Chief Executive, it may further sabotage the already tenuous function of the IPCC of making a statement.
4. As Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching noted at the symposium of the fifth anniversary of the IPCC, “Reality and public perception may differ. What can be done to improve public perception is a continuing quest.” Therefore, PLG urges the Administration to improve checks and balances against police impropriety by making the appointments process of the members of the IPCC more transparent and widening the power of the IPCC to strengthen its independence.
5. PLG believes that “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”. We express our hope that the CAPO, the IPCC and the Chief Executive also share the same belief and stand firmly to safeguard the independence and professionalism of the IPCC, so that it can truly fulfil its role of monitoring the police properly.
Progressive Lawyers Group 23 July 2015
Statement originally appeared in Stand News on 23 July 2015