Where a child or vulnerable adult dies as a result of abuse in the home, it may not be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt which of the adults caring for the child or vulnerable adult inflicted the fatal injuries. As a result, the party who killed the child or vulnerable adult, and a party who stood by and allowed it to happen, may literally "get away with murder" in some cases. In other jurisdictions, new criminal offences and rules of procedure have been introduced to counter this. In England, for example, section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 allows the court to convict and imprison for up to 14 years those who have caused the death of a child or vulnerable adult or should have known that the child or vulnerable adult was at significant risk of serious harm and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent that harm. South Australia enacted legislation along broadly similar lines in 2005 and a more recent reform model came into operation in New Zealand in 2012.
To consider whether reform may be required to the law in Hong Kong, the subject of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult was referred to the Law Reform Commission in September 2006 and a sub-committee was established in November 2006 under the chairmanship of the late Mr Alexander King, SC. The current chairman is Ms Amanda Whitfort, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong.
The Sub-committee published a Consultation Paper in May 2019 to invite public views on the preliminary proposals for reform of the law relating to the criminal liability of parents, carers and others when children or vulnerable adults die or are seriously harmed as a result of abuse or neglect while in their care.
The Sub-committee's secretary is Ms Louisa Ng, Senior Government Counsel.
If you wish further information on this project, please write to the Secretary of the Law Reform Commission by fax, post or email.
The Commission's offices are at:
4/F, East Wing, Justice Place,
18 Lower Albert Road,
Central, Hong Kong.
Telephone: (852) 3918 4097
Fax: (852) 3918 4096