On 16 May 2019, a sub-committee of the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong, chaired by Amanda Whitfort, released a Consultation Paper seeking views on "proposals for reform of the law relating to the criminal liability of parents, carers and others when children or vulnerable adults die or are seriously harmed as a result of abuse or neglect while in their care" (Press Release). A new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable person from an unlawful act or neglect is proposed. It is to be a serious offence punishable up to 20 years imprisonment if the victim dies. The proposal is potentially controversial as liability could be based on an objective mens rea standard that the defendant "ought to have been" aware of the risk of serious harm to the victim. It also proposes an uncertain offence element (the defendant's failure was "so serious that a criminal penalty is warranted") that could allow verdicts to turn on the moral and subjective opinions of the tribunal of fact. The consultation ends on 16 August 2019. For news coverage of the Consultation Paper, see SCMP, Standard, RTHK (Radio 3). Written by Simon NM Young.
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