The police have decided to uphold several more complaints over their treatment of an autistic man was wrongly charged with manslaughter after previously dismissing them as unsubstantiated. The turnaround came following disagreements with the independent police watchdog. Ultimately, nine police officers have been disciplined.
Daniel Mui, Deputy Secretary-General of the , the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), said that the case showed the police had inadequate training when it came to conducting criminal investigations involving mentally incapacitated persons. Mui said the investigation process was not strict enough, leading to complaints. The mistakes were “very serious” and improvements were needed, he added.
The 30-year-old autistic man was arrested and detained for almost 48 hours last May, before he was charged with the killing of a 73-year-old man at Mei Lam Estate’s basketball court in Tai Wai weeks before.
The charges were dropped hours after an alibi was confirmed. The man was confirmed to be at a rehabilitation centre in Tuen Mun when the crime occurred.
The case raised concerns about the police ignoring the man’s poor capacity to answer questions. They did not arrange for family members to accompany him when giving statements, and stood accused of asking leading questions and not arranging medical care.
The man’s elder brother later lodged a complaint on his behalf. In total, there were 11 allegations, including neglect of duty, misconduct, fabrication of evidence and unnecessary use of authority. The police have yet to apologise for the incident.
The Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO), an internal police unit, initially classified two out of 11 complaints as “substantiated,” including an unnecessary use of authority allegation and a neglect of duty allegation. One sergeant stood accused of asking leading questions during an interview whilst three police officers on the crime team failed to take the earliest opportunity to verify the man’s alibi.
The office classified the other allegations either as “no fault” or “unsubstantiated.” The office also registered three counts of substantiated allegations that were not reported by the complainant, on the procedural and documentation errors made by different officers.
The IPCC disagreed with some of the CAPO’s classifications upon examination of the case and raised questions with the office.
The CAPO reclassified two previously “unsubstantiated” allegations as “substantiated,” taking issue with the failure to arrange medical care and the lengthy detention. It also registered three more counts of substantiated allegations that were not reported by the complainant, with ten substantiated allegations upheld in total.
A “misconduct” allegation regarding an inappropriate media briefing was reclassified from from “no fault” to “not fully substantiated.” The penalties against the officers concerned were also escalated, with four subjected to disciplinary review.
The IPCC suggested the police consider enhancing guidelines with respect to conducting criminal investigations involving mentally incapacitated people. The police have already formed a designated working group to enhance procedures.