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3. Are the penalties for young offenders different from those for adults?

It depends on the actual age of the young offender. As explained in the answer to Question 1 above, a child under the age of 10 cannot be guilty of any offence. Under section 11 of the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance, no child aged between 10 and 13 can be sentenced to imprisonment; and no young person aged between 14 and 15 can be sentenced to imprisonment if that person can be suitably dealt with in any other way. Under section 109A(1) of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, no offender aged between 16 and 20 can be sentenced to imprisonment unless no other method of dealing with the person is found to be appropriate. However, section 109A(1) does not apply to certain offences known as "excepted offences", which are set out in Schedule 3 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance. These excepted offences include manslaughter, robbery, indecent assault and other serious crimes.

 

Subject to the above, the sentencing options (or penalties) explained in Question 2 above for adult offenders may in general also be imposed on a juvenile or young offender. However, the objective of the penalties on a young person is more on helping the person to get back on the right track (i.e. rehabilitation) than on punishment.

 

The following list explains the usual types of penalties (i.e. sentencing options) that the courts in Hong Kong will impose on juvenile or young offenders:

 

  1. Detention Centre Order : Detention centres are an alternative to imprisonment for male offenders only from the age of 14 to 24. Emphasis is placed on hard physical labour and discipline in order to administer a short sharp shock on the offender so that he will not re-offend again. Detention centre orders are not available as a sentencing option for offenders who have previously served a prison sentence or training centre order. The period of detention will be decided by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, who will consider the conduct of the offender during detention. For offenders aged between 14 and 20, the minimum period of detention is one month and the maximum is 6 months. For offenders aged between 21 and 24, the period of detention is from 3 months to 12 months. Upon release, the offenders may be subjected to a supervision period of one year when they need to obey certain requirements such as a requirement that they have to stay at home during certain time at night. Failure to comply with the supervision requirements may result in the offenders being sent back to the detention centre.

  2. Training Centre Order : Training centres are another alternative to imprisonment for both male and female offenders aged from 14 to 20. Emphasis is placed on rehabilitation, and offenders are trained in a trade. The period of detention will be decided by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, who will consider the conduct of the offender during detention. The minimum period of detention is six months and the maximum is 3 years. Upon release, the offenders may be subjected to a supervision period of three years when they need to obey certain requirements such as a requirement that they have to stay at home during certain time at night. If the offenders fail to comply with the supervision requirements, they may be recalled to the training centre and be detained there for another 6 months or up to three years after they were first sent to the training centre (whichever is the later).

  3. Rehabilitation Centres : This is a new alternative to imprisonment that came into being in 2002 for both male and female offenders aged 14 to 20. It is aimed at offenders whose offences call for a short custodial sentence, but who are not suited to detention centre or training centre orders. The objectives are to deter further criminal conduct and to rehabilitate detainees in terms of socially acceptable behaviour. Rehabilitation centre orders are not available to offenders who have previously served a prison sentence or a detention in a training centre, detention centre or drug addiction and treatment centre. The offenders will first be detained full time at a rehabilitation centre for a period between 2 months and 5 months, to be determined by the Commissioner of Correctional Services by considering the conduct and progress of the offenders. Then they will be subjected to a period of residence at another rehabilitation centre when they may be permitted to go out during certain hours to study, work or do other approved activities. The period of residence is between one month and 4 months, to be determined by the Commissioner of Correctional Services by considering the needs and progress of the offenders. Upon release, the offenders may be subjected to a supervision period of one year when they needs to obey certain requirements such as a requirement that they have to stay at home during certain time at night. Failure to comply with the supervision requirements may result in the offenders being sent back to the rehabilitation centre.

  4. Reformatory School : This is for male offenders aged 10 to 15 and is administered by the Social Welfare Department. Emphasis is placed on rehabilitation and changing the offenders' behaviour and social attitude through social work approach. The period of stay is from one to three years depending on behaviour during the stay.

  5. Remand Home : The remand home is a place of detention that may be ordered by the court under the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance for male and female offenders aged 10 to 15. The remand home is administered by the Social Welfare Department. The emphasis is on rehabilitation through short-term custodial care and training, in order to help the offenders develop a regular life pattern and self-discipline. The maximum period of detention is 6 months.

  6. Orders against parents or guardians : Under Sections 9 and 10 of the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance, parents and guardians of young offenders aged between 10 and 15 can be compelled to attend court when their child is dealt with. Such parents and guardians can also be ordered to give security for the child's behaviour or can be ordered to pay a fine. Such fines and security, if not paid, can be recovered from the parent or guardian by way of distress (seizing their properties and converting them into cash) or an imprisonment order as if the parent or guardian had been convicted of the offence.

  7. Probation : see Question 2

  8. Drug Addiction Treatment Centre Order : see Question 2

  9. Fine : see Question 2

  10. Discharge : see Question 2
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