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Causing or Allowing the Death or Serious Harm of a Child or Vulnerable Adult (Hong Kong Law Reform Commission Consultation Paper)
Category : Blog Post
Date : 26 Jul, 2019

The Causing or Allowing the Death of a Child or Vulnerable Adult Sub-committee of the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission issued a consultation paper on 16 May 2019 making a preliminary proposal recommending that the Government introduce an offence of “failure to protect a child or vulnerable person where the child's or vulnerable person’s death or serious harm results from an unlawful act or neglect”. The Sub-committee recommends defining a “vulnerable person” as “a person aged 16 years or above whose ability to protect himself or herself from an unlawful act or neglect is significantly impaired for any reason, including but not limited to, physical or mental disability, illness or infirmity”.

The proposal aims at closing an existing loophole. In cases of abuse where children or vulnerable adults died or suffered serious harm, the prosecution sometimes encounters a particular evidential problem in attempting to prove who among the victim’s carers or family members carried out the unlawful act which was the immediate cause of the death of or serious harm. Sometimes the victims refuse to or are unable to recount what happened. The silence, or mutual accusations, of the suspected persons and, where the abuse took place in a family context, the silence of other family members who maintain silence in order to protect the suspected persons also add to the prosecution’s difficulty of proving who committed that unlawful act. On some occasions, these result in the abusers escaping liability under the existing law.


In addition, the Sub-committee recommends that the Government review and, if it considers appropriate upon review, increase the current maximum penalty applicable to the existing child ill-treatment and neglect offence under section 27 of the Offences against the Person Ordinance (Cap. 212).


Dr Philip Beh, our Co-Director, is a member of the Sub-committee. The consultation on the proposal ends on 16 August 2019.

Consultation paper: Click here 

Newspaper articles:
The Standard: click here 
South China Morning Post: click here
Hong Kong Economic Times [Chinese only]: click here
Ming Pao [Chinese only]: click here 

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