英文

Editorial : High Court's ruling on police not displaying their IDs

【明報專訊】During last year's anti-amendment storm, riot police provoked controversy by not displaying their ID badges when they were on duty. Yesterday (November 19) the High Court ruled that such a practice was in violation of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. The court argues that, when policemen fail to display unique identification, they are hindering the operations of the mechanism for handling complaints. The High Court is of the view that even the presence of an emergency does not mean that the Bill of Rights can be overridden.

The focus of the High Court's ruling is on the protection of the right to lodge complaints against policemen. In his judgement, the judge mentions that when policemen cover their faces when on duty, it is necessary for them to display what can show their identities. Without such unique identification, it will be difficult to handle complaints against policemen. The judge believes that police officers might be "doxed" maliciously if their identities are made public. However, keeping the mechanism for handling complaints effective is more important than addressing the worry that policemen might be "doxed". In his judgement, he says that by allowing policemen not to display their ID numbers publicly, the Hong Kong Police have made the mechanism for handling complaints incomplete. As for the complaint mechanism made up of the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) and the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), the judge believes that the mechanism is unable to fulfil the requirements of the Bill of Rights, as the former is not an independent body while the latter lacks investigative and other powers.

Over the past year, many court cases involving the anti-amendment movement have seen the original rulings being overridden. For example, the government invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to promulgate the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation. Pro-democracy lawmakers filed for judicial review, and the High Court ruled that the government's action was in violation of the Basic Law and the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal, however, overruled the decision of the Court of First Instance, ruling that the government's action and parts of the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation were indeed constitutional. The final decision is to be made by the Court of Final Appeal, which will determine how the case will go. It remains to be seen whether the police and Justice Department will appeal the ruling on the judicial review case about police not displaying their IDs when they were on duty and how the case will develop later.

When it comes to on-duty police's identities, the greater the transparency the better. It is believed that most people will agree with this in normal social circumstances. The High Court's ruling is made mostly from the perspective of the protection of human rights, as the court argues that protecting the right to lodge complaints against police should be given priority. It is imaginable that some people will ask why the judge does not give more consideration to the danger faced by police and their families if their identities are exposed when police are facing such hostile law-enforcement environments. Arguments about legal points of view should be handled by the judiciary. The public can discuss the ruling rationally. But they should not overstep the boundaries and launch vituperative attacks on the judge.

The chairman of the IPCC has said that the parts of the High Court's judgement concerning the authority of the IPCC are not accurate. That said, the IPCC's lack of power and independence was much discussed even before the anti-amendment storm. The authorities must pay proper regard to the problem, evaluate the existing mechanism for handling complaints against the police, and seek improvement.

明報社評2020.11.20:街頭戰爭告一段落 執法安排應該「復常」

去年反修例風暴,防暴警察執勤不展示警員編號,引起爭議,昨天高等法院裁定,有關做法不符合《人權法》。警員未有展示獨一無二的身分識別標記,有礙投訴處理制度運作,高院認為即使情况緊急,亦不能凌駕《人權法》。

高院裁決的重點,放在保障投訴警員的權利。判辭提到,當警員蒙面執勤,他們有需要出示一些可辨別身分的記認,若無獨一無二識別方法,對警察的投訴將難以處理。法官認為,雖然警員公開身分後,可能遭惡意「起底」,然而保持投訴處理制度有效運作,比起警員擔心被「起底」更重要。判辭表示,警務處允許警員不公開清楚展示警員編號,令投訴機制系統不完善,至於投訴警察課和監警會處理投訴的制度,亦未能滿足《人權法》要求,因為投訴警察課並非獨立機關,監警會則欠缺調查等權力。

過去一年,很多有關反修例風暴的案件,原審裁決上訴後都被推翻。舉例說,去年政府引用《緊急法》,制定《禁蒙面法》,泛民議員提出司法覆核。高院法官一度裁定政府做法不符合《基本法》,《禁蒙面法》亦屬違憲,上訴庭後來卻推翻了高院原訟庭裁決,裁定港府做法合憲、《禁蒙面法》部分合憲。案件最後如何作結,還看終審法院的裁決。今次有關執勤不展示警員編號的覆核裁決,警方和律政司會否上訴、往後有何發展,仍需拭目以待。

警員執勤身分識別愈透明愈好,在正常社會狀態下,相信絕大多數人都會認同。高院今次裁決,傾向從保障人權的角度出發,認為必須優先保障投訴警員的權利,可以想像,有些人會認為,當時警方面對如此惡劣的執法環境,法官為何不多考慮前線警員身分一旦暴露,不僅自身有危險,家人亦可能遭殃。有關法律觀點的爭拗,應該由司法機構處理,公眾可以理性討論裁決,惟不可踰越界線,變成肆意攻擊法官。

監警會主席認為,判辭有關監警會職權的說法有偏差,但有關監警會權力不足、不夠獨立等問題,早在反修例風暴前已有很多人談論,當局應正視問題,檢視現行投訴警方機制,謀求改善。

■Glossary

生字

override : to be more important than sth

overstep : to go beyond what is normal or allowed

vituperative : full of angry and cruel criticism

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