Date
17 October 2017
Police have come under fire over their handling of an autistic man who was detained for two days amid a murder probe. The man's brother Au Wai-ho (bottom, right), has vowed to press ahead with a complaint. Photos: HKEJ, Apple Daily, tvb.com
Police have come under fire over their handling of an autistic man who was detained for two days amid a murder probe. The man's brother Au Wai-ho (bottom, right), has vowed to press ahead with a complaint. Photos: HKEJ, Apple Daily, tvb.com

Police face more questions over wrongful arrest of autistic man

The family of an autistic man who was wrongfully detained by the police earlier this month in connection with a murder case said it will press ahead with a complaint despite the police expressing “regret” over their action.

The family said it will lodge a petition with the Complaints Against Police Office, a unit within the Hong Kong police that handles complaints against the force’s officers.

Meanwhile, it leveled fresh accusations of improper behavior by the officers who handled the arrest and subsequent two-day detention of their 30-year-old intellectually disabled family member. 

At a news conference Wednesday, Au Wai-ho, an elder brother of the autistic man, played out an audio recording of the police officers trying to secure a statement from his brother following the latter’s arrest on May 2.

In the 20-minute long clip, the autistic man was heard repeatedly giving contradictory answers to police officers’ questions.

Sometimes, he was heard saying that he had pushed a man and at other times that he didn’t do any such thing, Ming Pao Daily News reported Thursday.

In the media briefing, at which Au was accompanied by lawmaker Fernando Cheung, the brother said he cannot say if the police were trying to make up evidence. But the recording does give rise to doubts if the police officers taking the statement were being overly creative, he said.

The police arrested Au’s brother, who suffers from autism and intellectual disability, on May 2 and held him in custody for 48 hours amid an investigation into the killing of an elderly man.

It was later determined that the autistic man was not at the scene of crime which took place in April at Mei Lam Estate in Sha Tin.

After facing heavy criticism for their action, the police admitted to some lapses in the handling of the case.

Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok said he fully understands the feelings of the autistic man’s family. However, he did not respond when asked if an independent committee will be set up to look into the matter.

Lawmaker Cheung revealed that the police had failed to call up a female worker responsible for looking after the autistic man at a Tue Mun nursing home before she got off work on May 3 at 6 pm.

The police called her at 7 pm, and the caretaker is said to have returned the call at 8 pm the same night, confirming that the autistic man was in the nursing home at the time of the alleged crime.

Despite the caretaker’s statement, the police still went ahead in pressing murder charges against the autistic man the next day. It was only when Cheung phoned up the police commander for the Sha Tin district that the autistic man was finally allowed to go on bail, the lawmaker said.

Eric Cheung, former chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), said a study of the statement taken by the police shows that the autistic man’s replies were highly ambiguous. 

It is apparent that the police officers’ interrogating skills were not ideal, he said, suggesting that it could be due to lack of relevant training.

The courts might not accept a statement like this, Cheung said.

IPCC is an independent body that monitors reviews by the Complaints Against Police Office of complaints against members of the police force.

Cheung also pointed out that when the police made the arrest on May 2, they should not have interrogated the autistic man in the absence of his family members.

If there is evidence that a person’s verbal replies differ from the written statement taken by the police, the police officers involved could face charges of perverting the course of justice or misconduct in public office.

IPCC member Helena Wong has written to the agency’s chairman Larry Kwok on Wednesday, urging the latter to discuss the incident at a regular meeting next month.

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EL/AC/RC

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