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Private tutors and coaches face checks

By Arthur Chan

Hong Kong, 5 July 2024: Security checks on people working with children or vulnerable adults are to be expanded as the authorities seek to close loopholes in the Sexual Conviction Record Check (SCRC) scheme.

Within this year, self-employed individuals such as private tutors and sports coaches will become eligible for vetting, while volunteers will be covered by the end of 2025. Thereafter, the scheme will be further extended to all existing employees and self-employed people in jobs which have regular contact with vulnerable groups.

Like many jurisdictions, Hong Kong has a sex offender registry policy. The SCRC scheme was launched in 2011 to allow employers of people working with children or mentally disabled citizens to check whether job applicants have any criminal conviction for offences such as rape, indecent assault or voyeurism.

The SCRC scheme is voluntary, meaning employers are not obliged to use it for vetting applicants, although logic dictates that they are well advised to. Further, it does not replace the obvious need for prudent employment practice and proper parental supervision.

Currently, the scheme covers prospective employees, contract renewal staff and workers assigned by outsourced service providers. Employers allowed to use it are limited to organisations or enterprises – typically schools, daycare institutions, social service agencies and healthcare providers.

Now, Secretary for Security Chris Tang has revealed the SCRC’s scope will be widened, starting in the fourth quarter of this year when it will include private tutors, music teachers, sports coaches and the like. Volunteers will become eligible by the end of next year. When the authorities are satisfied that the first two phases are operating smoothly, the scheme will be extended to existing employees and other self-employed individuals.

The expansion also means that individuals such as parents and guardians, who may hire self-employed people such as tutors and coaches for their children, will be considered eligible as “employers” to make use of the scheme.

Since the scheme launched 13 years ago, the police force has received more than 619,000 new applications and 136,000 renewal applications. Presently, it requires applicants to book an appointment and appear in person at the SCRC office at police headquarters in Wanchai to submit documents and have their fingerprints taken. Within five working days, prospective employers can obtain the result of the check via telephone by entering a unique code. They can only verify if applicants have a record for specific sexual offences; they cannot access the exact details. The SCRC does not include spent convictions.

With the planned expansion, the process will move online and be streamlined, allowing the force to process at least 210,000 new applications per year as opposed to 60,000 now. An online registration platform will be launched later this year to allow the public to submit documents and inquire about their applications. A 24-hour fingerprint-taking service will be set up in six police stations across the city, while self-service kiosks for fingerprinting will be introduced by the end of next year. As well, the validity period of the verification application will also be increased from the current 18 months to 36 months.

The expansion follows recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in its report, “Sentencing and Related Matters in the Review of Sexual Offences”, published two years ago. That report called for the SCRC scheme to be extended “to its fullest” before evaluating whether it should be made mandatory.

The Secretary for Security’s comments to the Legislative Council last November may be noted: “Legislating for mandatory SCRC has to be considered carefully as it involves the stipulation of penalties. From the perspective of practical needs of society, mandatory checking may not be applicable to all situations,” he told lawmakers.

In expanding the scheme, the government is seeking to strike a balance between two major principles: on the one hand, protecting children and vulnerable adults; on the other, facilitating rehabilitation of offenders and protecting jobseekers’ privacy. The authorities have pledged to carefully assess any potential impact on society before making further amendments.

Arthur Chan is a Partner with BC&C. He specialises in Criminal Litigation and cyber fraud recovery claim and also develops a broad range of civil and commercial litigation such as immigration, personal injuries and employment issues. He can be contacted at







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