The Coroner’s Court on Wednesday recommended inmates detained in Hong Kong’s correctional facilities be made to work in pairs when cleaning areas in security camera blind spots after a man hanged himself two years ago.
The jury’s recommendation concluded an inquest into the death of Lam Lok-man, 28, who was found hanging from a bedsheet tied to the window frame of a staff toilet at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on July 10, 2017.
He died two days later at Caritas Medical Centre, with the cause of death identified as hanging complicated by hypoxic brain damage.
A letter to his younger sister, dated July 8, was later found among his possessions. “Please forgive my selfishness,” it said. “I’ll leave mum and dad to you. Do not miss me.”
Five jurors before Coroner Stephanie Tsui May-har unanimously concluded Lam had committed suicide.
Official statistics show there were 99 cases of self-harm among people in custody in 2017. Three were fatal.
Lam was arrested on June 11, following a two-day citywide manhunt sparked by a 30-year-old woman’s report of having been ambushed and raped in her flat at Po Tin Estate in Tuen Mun.
He confessed to investigators and was subsequently picked out by his victim at an identification parade.
The porter was then brought to Tuen Mun Court to face one count of rape on June 14 and sent to a correctional facility in Cheung Sha Wan to await legal proceedings.
Lam was last seen alive on security camera footage of a facility day room at 7.28am on July 10.
The day room had 60 inmates, guarded by two officers.
But there were no eyewitnesses who could testify to the immediate events before Lam was found hanging in a staff toilet next to the day room at around 8am.
One inmate, surnamed Yeung, said they had been cleaning since 7am that day, with Lam assigned to the staff toilet.
The court heard cleaning equipment and old bedsheets – also used for cleaning – had been stored in a meter room next door.
Yeung recalled checking on Lam after he completed his duties at around 8am – but Lam twice ignored his calls so he alerted an officer, who broke into the cubicle to find Lam hanging.
Lawyers for the Correctional Services Department argued there were no warning signs before Lam committed suicide as his mother, who had visited him in custody, recalled he was adapting to his new life while his father noted he had no suicidal tendencies.
But the jury said the authorities should have limited the duration of inmates’ cleaning duties and blocked access to the meter room and staff toilet when they were not cleaning.
They also found there was a need for inmates to work in pairs when they were cleaning areas not covered by security cameras, such as the toilet in question.
This article Inmates must work in pairs when cleaning areas in security camera blind spots, Hong Kong Coroner’s Court rules, after man facing rape charge hanged himself first appeared on South China Morning Post