The children’s home that allowed police to take topless photos of a mentally handicapped girl under its care said the officers had in fact asked to take pictures of her naked, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday.
The Christian Family Service Center (CFSC) said that to protect the girl’s privacy, its staff refused to allow them to do so.
The case surfaced after the girl’s mother was charged with abandoning her in a restaurant Nov. 23 on their way back to a children’s home supervised by the CFSC.
CFSC corporate affairs director Eddy Lo King-sang said two policemen and a policewoman took the 13-year-old girl back to the home that night.
The officers left after the policewoman examined the girl and found no apparent injuries.
However, later that night, the children’s home received a call from police, saying further investigation was required.
A male plainclothes officer and a policewoman arrived at the home at 1 a.m.
They wanted the mentally handicapped girl to remove her underwear to take fully nude photos of her, Lo said, but the staff questioned the necessity of doing so.
However, Lo said, there appeared to be a reddish mark on the girl’s chest, and the staff were worried she might have been injured.
So with the girl’s consent and accompanied by the staff, the policewoman spent about 15 minutes in the toilet taking four or five topless photos of the girl, including one showing the front of the girl’s breast.
Police didn’t show the staff the photos they had taken, which were all in digital format.
Lo said the CFSC is very sorry about the incident and will strengthen staff training and review its guidelines to ensure that the privacy of its residents is protected.
A veteran police officer who works in criminal investigation was cited by the newspaper as saying police seldom take photos in a toilet.
If police suspected the girl had been molested, they should take her to hospital, where they could take pictures under the guidance of an officer from the forensic science division, he said.
Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said this was the second time police have been found to be unprofessional in dealing with people suffering from a mental handicap.
He was referring to an autistic youth who was recently detained for more than two days for repeated interrogation by police, who charged him with murder despite knowing he had an alibi.
Cheung said a mentally handicapped person might not be capable of responding properly to a request for photos or to interrogation by police.
He said the Social Welfare Department has a legal responsibility to protect the girl.
A police spokesman said an internal review of the case is underway and the force would make any improvements deemed necessary.
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