Q2. What could the drivers of public transport services do when they receive complaints from passengers that they regard as unjustified?
The driver may ask the passenger to file a complaint at the Transport Complaint Unit, which would investigate into the case and decide whether it is substantiated. The Transport Complaint Unit deals with over 30,000 cases yearly and provides readily accessible electronic complaint forms to prospective complainants at https://www.tcu.gov.hk/eng/traffic-complaint.html.
What kind of resources can the drivers use if they have received complaint from the passengers?
If a driver receives a complaint from passenger, the driver is of course entitled to use any evidence available to him to disprove any complaint or charge against him, this would include the video clips that recorded the dialogue between them and the passengers as evidence.
What kind of procedures would they need to face?
According to website of Transport Complaints Unit (see: https://www.tcu.gov.hk/chi/index.html), all the complaints and suggestions received by Transport Complaint Unit will be referred to the relevant government departments and public transport operators for follow-up action.
According to Transport Complaints Unit Report 2020 (https://www.tcu.gov.hk/annual/docs/tcu2020.pdf) at paragraph 3, investigations were to be conducted. After investigation, the result would be categorized as “substantiated”, “unsubstantiated”, or not pursuable due to lack of evidence. For “substantiated” cases, relevant government departments / public transport operators had either taken steps to rectify the situation or were considering possible solutions to the problems identified.
If the complainants agreed to be court witnesses, the cases would be referred to the Police for further investigation. Amongst the cases referred to the police, some drivers were summonsed.
Do they need to hire a lawyer?
Once an investigation is laid against the drivers, whether by the Transport Complaint Unit or the Police, a potential criminal charge may be laid against the drivers. Thus, in order to protect the drivers’ interests or ensure the drivers be well-informed of their legal rights, they may have to hire lawyer throughout the investigation process.
Is there any means for them to reconcile with the passengers, or minimize the potential cost to be paid?
It depends on whether the disputes between the drivers and passengers are giving rise to a civil claim or potential criminal offence.
Where the disputes between the drivers and the passengers only give arise to a contractual dispute, for example, whether the drivers have breached any terms of a contract, it is up to the parties to reconcile either by themselves or to resort any alternative disputes resolution instead of litigation.
However, where the disputes between the passengers and the drivers are caused by a potentially criminal conduct on the part of the driver or giving rise to a potential criminal proceeding, to reconcile may amount to a concealment of the commission of an offence. This may amount to perverting the course of public justice.
Thus, in a criminal context, there may not be any other means for drivers and passengers for reconciliation.