VII. Role and Responsibilities of Police Officers Attending Domestic Violence Incidents

If there is evidence of a crime, the perpetrator should be arrested, irrespective of the victim’s wishes. All the offences already referred to depend upon the police taking action in the particular case. For various reasons, such as lack of alternative accommodation, fear, or a desire to continue the relationship and a belief that criminal proceedings will prevent that happening, a victim of abuse may be reluctant to cooperate with the police.

To combat domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, juvenile crime and child pornography, the Hong Kong Police Force has set up the Child Protection Policy Unit. It is responsible for devising and formulating Police Force policies and procedures for handling cases in these areas, and for ensuring a coordinated police response to reports of these cases. Therefore, all the police officers who deal with these incidents are professionally and specially trained in the area of domestic. You do not have to worry about their knowledge and experience in dealing with your particular situation.

A. Primary concerns of the police

According to the Hong Kong Police Force document: Role and Responsibilities of Police Officers Attending Domestic Violence Incidents, the primary concerns of the Police as a law enforcement agency are:

  1. to  protect the victim and his/her children from attack;
  2. to ensure that they are not subject to any risk of further violence, at least in the short term;
  3. to take firm and positive action against the alleged offender and to investigate  any offences that may have been committed;
  4. to serve a Domestic Incident Notice on the alleged offender; and
  5. to refer the victim and/or the alleged offender to appropriate support and counselling services.

Police policy is that wherever possible, two officers, one of each gender should attend the incident. According to their code of conduct, the victim should be interviewed by an officer of the same gender, if available, and separately from the perpetrator to ensure privacy and safety. The victim will never be asked in the presence or hearing of the abuser if he/she wants to bring a criminal complaint against the abuser and whether he/she would be prepared to give evidence at court hearing.

If the perpetrator is arrested, the arresting officer should explain the procedure and inform the victim of the arresting officer’s number and the name of the Police Station to which the abuser will be taken. If there is insufficient evidence to support the report or accusations against the abuser, the situation and reasons should be explained to the victim as well.

The police officer shall also give some information about support services and hotlines for practical and emotional support.

B. Domestic Incident Notice

One of the obligations of police officers attending a domestic violence incident is to serve a Domestic Violence Notice on the alleged abuser if there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecution. The action may be taken by the police officers at the scene or by the Duty Officer if the victim and alleged offender are taken to a Police Station for further enquiry, or by the crime officers conducting a criminal investigation of the incident.

This form notifies the alleged abuser of the nature of the allegations against them, names the complainant and sets out the date and place of the incident. The Notice serves as a record of the police visit and operates as a warning to the alleged abuser of the possibility of criminal charges under the Offences Against the Person Ordinance or the Crimes Ordinance if there is a repetition of the abusive conduct. The reasons why there will not be a prosecution at this time must be explained to the victim.