The Judiciary is considering taking into account the need for screens as standard procedure in sexual offence cases. New guidelines will be put into place in early 2016 after comments from stakeholders are considered.

Currently, the provision of screens or special passageways for sexual violence victims in criminal proceedings is determined by judicial discretion. Arrangements to give evidence by live television link may also be permitted if applied for.

screens for sexual offence victims hearing
Screens as shields for sexual offence victims’ hearing.

Speaking at a LegCo meeting on Wednesday, Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said the criminal proceedings of sexual offences often attract crowds of visitors. Some victims feel frightened, hurt and deprived of privacy during proceedings. She added that some feel as if they had been “assaulted a second time”, causing humiliation and embarrassment.

elizabeth quat
Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat.

Quat proposed granting the provision of screens, live television links and special passageways to sexual crime victims automatically. Solicitor General Wesley Wong Wai-chung says that the adoption of such special measures should be handled with care, as they would “involve the fundamental right of a defendant to a fair trial”, and are related to “the public interest in open justice”.

Linda Wong Sau-yung, executive director of RainLily, a service unit of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, questioned the scope of the proposed directives, as they only considers the victims’ use of screens but not special passageways.

poster rainlily
A poster by the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women’s (ACSVAW) service unit, RainLily. Photo: ACSVAW.

Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing urged the implementation of “one-stop” investigations to avoid the issues of victims having to retell the their traumas repeatedly.

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.