Brush-up of prison stats in hair fight

Top News | Phoebe Ng 4 Jan 2018

Male prisoners are more likely to use long hair to conceal weapons than their female counterparts, the government argued in the Court of Appeal.

The Correctional Service Department yesterday said enforcing a prison rule requiring politician Leung Kwok-hung - also known as "Long Hair" - to cut his signature locks in 2014 was not discriminatory.

In an attempt to quash a judicial review judgment last year that said it was unconstitutional and discriminatory to make male prisoners get their hair cut, the government's lawyer, Stewart Wong Kai-ming, SC, said: "The difference in treatment is based on general difference between male and female."

To demonstrate, Wong said women are allowed to bring lipsticks to prisons while men are not.

Leung had his long hair cut during his incarceration in 2014 for "health and safety" reasons.

He was jailed at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre in June that year after being convicted on multiple charges, including criminal damage.

The case has been debated before three judges - Court of Appeal president Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon and Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor.

Wong quoted a statistic showing male inmates are more likely to use long hair to "conceal weapons and drugs" and "terminate life by hanging." In addition, Wong said long-haired male inmates are generally more prone to attacks.

Wong added the CSD did not intend to advocate gender stereotyping, but only imposed the hair-length rule to suppress "individualism" and "personal characters."

However, Leung's counsel Hectar Pun Hei, SC, said such statistics showed that the rules are made based on "general assumptions" and so such rules are "unlawful."

Pun added: "To protect an inmate, either you move the person to a safe place or advise them to cut hair. You let them have a choice."

Despite his objection, Leung's hair was cut by an inmate barber under the supervision of a day orderly officer. He filed a judicial review in 2014 that challenged the prison authority's rule only applying to male offenders.

Leung won a battle in January last year in the Court of First Instance, but the CSD filed an appeal the following month.

The CSD was given until June 2017 to put together corrective measures, but since it was still looking for solutions, it sought an extension.

The appeal hearing continues today.

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