Where a child 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 inflicted the fatal injuries. As a result, the party who killed the child, 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 should have known that the child 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 was referred to the Law Reform Commission in September 2006. A Sub-committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Alexander King, SC, was established in November 2006. The current chairman is Ms. Amanda Whitfort, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong. The Sub-committee’s secretary is Ms. Michelle Ainsworth, Principal Government Counsel.
The Sub-committee is completing a consultation paper which is expected to be published later in 2016 to gauge public views.
(Source: Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong)
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