The Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong has issued its preliminary proposals for the reform of sentencing laws for sexual offences. This is the final stage in their multi-year project covering many aspects of the legal definitions with regard to sexual assault and related issues which will soon be submitted to LegCo for consideration. We applaud their work in this much needed area.
In reviewing the details the LRC’s recommendations, we do find areas that we believe require adjustments to better protect victims of sexual crimes in Hong Kong. I have worked with fellow survivors and The Hong Kong University’s law faculty to draft our initial feed back. At this stage we have mainly focused on crimes related to children. We hope to add a portion related to sexual crimes against adults before final submission.
We are publishing this draft in order to:
- Receive your feedback on which could be:
- Your comments on the recommendations
- Your personal statement to include with our submission
- Your personal statements you’d like us to include
- Provide content that you may wish to use in our own direct feedback to the LRC. Contact email@example.com
Note: public consultation period is open until 11 February 2021 – please response to TALK or the LRC prior to that date. We have now submitted our final version you can find below.
CALL TO ACTION
PUBLIC: SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS TO COMMISSION BY FEB 11
Here’s a letter you can copy and paste:
To the Law Reform Commission firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Review of Sexual Offences Sub-committee Sentencing and Related Matters in the Review of Sexual Offences
I have read your recommendations on sentencing and related matter for sexual offences in Hong Kong. I have the following comments regarding your recommendations.
- Many of the new offences recommended apply different sentences to those committed against children under 13 years old and those under 16. There should be no division of sexual offences against a child by age. The maximum penalty for all sexual offences against a child should be the maximum sentence currently recommended for younger children (e.g., make a single offence of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 with the maximum penalty set at life imprisonment.)
Reasoning: TALK would like the Sub-Committee to appreciate that the age division currently supported by the Sub-Committee implies that the impact of a sexual assault on a child under 13 is greater than for a child between the ages of 13 and 15 and / or that the ability of a child over the age of 13 to consent is greater than that of a child under the age of 13. While there may be some extraordinary exceptions, in our experience neither is true, and the abuse is equally damaging at the age of 10 as at the age of 15. A sexual crime against a child is always the responsibility of the older party in our view and this view is supported by many of the world’s largest victim’s rights advocacy groups.
- In your recommendations document I find the statistic that in recent years sexual offenders have been sentenced to less than 2 years 80% of the time. I suggest that the Sub-Committee consider implementing mandatory minimum sentences for sexual offences, and in particular, with respect to sexual offences against a child.
- I also find that the reoffending rate calculated in the report is 2.94%. However, this amount is not reliable given the small sample size of 34 individuals and the fact that it is acknowledged by Hong Kong officials that reporting rates for sexual offences are low. It is recognised that sexual crimes against children are even less frequently reported than crimes against adults. Since many of the decisions about sex offender sentencing and treatment appear to be based on this number, we suggest that the matter be subject to further independent research particularly as the Sub-Committee seems to rely on a single expert, embedded in the very system she has been tasked with critiquing.
- I understand that currently, sexual conviction records checking is not mandatory for employers in Hong Kong. And that the current voluntary system does not cover existing employees, self-employed persons, volunteers; nor does it include disclosure of spent convictions. Since I know that around 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused, I suggest that records checks be mandatory particularly for those working with children such as tutors, coaches, teachers, volunteers whether they are new or existing employees. This will help create public awareness of the issue and protect children.