The Ombudsman on Thursday said its investigation into the operational arrangements for statutory visits under the Justices of the Peace (JP) Visit Programme has identified some room for improvement.
Under the scheme, the JPs would conduct surprise visits to 38 correctional institutions, detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, as well as remand homes, places of refuge, probation homes, and reformatory schools – during which inmates and patients could lodge complaints.
Following their visits, the JPs could also make recommendations to the government departments running these institutions.
A year and a half after launching a direct probe into the visit programme, the Ombudsman, Winnie Chiu, said the institutions did not immediately announce that the JPs had arrived for a surprise visit.
Some of them had also failed to inform those in custody or hospitalised that they can request to meet the JPs in private.
The watchdog added that while the departments have prepared their respective checklists for the JPs to look at, these items were sometimes left out in the end.
It said even though the institutions were generally able to handle the complaints and suggestions in a timely manner, improvements could be made in a number of areas.
“Overall, the Office considers the operation of the JP Visit Programme smooth in general and recognises the contribution of JPs in this regard. That said, there is still room for improvement in the operational arrangements for the Programme,” Chiu said.
The Ombudsman made 13 recommendations, including providing a list of people temporarily away from an institution for the JPs to check, and requiring the institutions to explain if a person misses two visits in a row.
It also asked the departments to revise their visit checklists, and proactively provide JPs with the relevant information if they’ve missed out on key areas during an inspection.