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Criminal Interrogation and the Right to Remain Silent--A Study of the Hong Kong Customs Service

NCJ Number
International Journal of Police Science and Management Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer 2009 Pages: 217-235
Jessica Wing Kay Chiu
Date Published
19 pages
The study examined the administration of the rights of arrested persons under interrogation by Customs law enforcers in Hong Kong as compared with the underlying legal principles, identified factors affecting the conceptual understanding of Customs law enforcers towards the Caution, and made recommendations for improvement in the practice.
The results indicate that there was a gap between the practice and conceptual understanding of legal theories underlying the taking of Cautioned statements. The findings confirm that there is a substantial amount of controversy over what the Caution actually represents. Factors contributing to the situation were complexity of the underlying legal principles, ambiguity in the wordings of the Caution, and the variety of interpretations that could be implied during trial in a not-guilty plea. The overall results indicate that rigid compliance by officers with the Rules and Directions were not sufficient to ensure the suspect was fully informed of the effect of remaining silent. A revision was recommended to be made to the 1992 Rules and Directions to incorporate the principles subsequently introduced through the Bill and the Privacy Ordinance. This would reduce the chance of misinterpretation and guard against malpractice on the one hand and protect the suspect’s rights on the other hand. China moved towards protection against involuntary confessions through legal reforms and the passing of the Bill of Rights in Hong Kong in 1997. The Rules and Directions for administering the Caution and treatment of persons in custody in Hong Kong were issued in 1992, but did not have the force of law. Ambiguity in the wording of the Caution was a problem for both law enforcers and suspects. An analysis of the documents served on the suspect identified problems with the existing Caution. This study of 150 Customs officers sought to identify factors affecting the conceptual understanding of Customs law enforcers towards the Caution and to make recommendations for the improvement in the practice. Tables and references