SINGAPORE: A 28-year-old man who hit a five-year-old autistic boy at an indoor playground in Yishun was on Tuesday (Jun 4) sentenced to a week in jail.
Soo Wen Jie, an operations supervisor, was at Sunshine Childhood Playland at Northpoint City with his wife and two children, aged 10 months and 20 months, when he hit the boy on Apr 9 last year.
Footage of the incident, which went viral after the incident, was shown in court on Tuesday. The boy was seen trying to take a blue plastic shovel that Soo was holding on to, but Soo refused to let go of it.
At the time, no one else was at the playground except Soo and his family.
The boy tried to take the shovel again and when he could not, he became frustrated and hit Soo’s back. Soo then kicked the victim on his abdomen, causing the boy to stagger backwards. Soo also threw the shovel to the side so that the boy will stop approaching him, the court heard.
When the child tried to hug him from behind a short while later, Soo pushed him again.
The boy hit Soo on the back in response. Soo then stood up, swung his right arm backwards and hit the boy’s upper body. This caused the boy to fall backwards and onto a slide.
The boy’s mother heard the commotion and went to the play area, the court heard. They left shortly after.
That same night, while she was bathing her son, he complained of pain in his abdomen. It was then that the mother contacted the playground and asked for the camera footage. She made a police report the next day.
In asking for Soo to be jailed for a week, Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Ee Ling said the offence was committed against a very vulnerable victim, and that the victim not only suffered physical harm but also psychological harm.
He sought medical attention one day after the incident and a medical report stated there was tenderness over the sternum and upper abdomen.
The victim also has disturbed sleep and nightmares, said the prosecutor. When his mother hugged him, he cried, saying: “Naughty uncle beat me” and asked: “Why uncle beat me?” she added.
The prosecutor added that Soo had other options to deal with the situation, like looking for the playground’s management or the parent of the boy.
Soo’s lawyer Walter Silvester said that his client did not know the boy was autistic.
“This was a case of ignorance,” he said, adding that Soo overreacted. He also said that the psychological harm the prosecution pointed to was “overstated”, and that the injuries were minor.
He asked for a fine, or one day in jail.
“He should have been more restrained, but no great harm has been caused,” the lawyer said.
The prosecutor, in response, said that whether or not the boy has autism, he was just five years old at the time and very vulnerable.
In sentencing Soo, District Judge Ng Peng Hong said that although there was no serious injury, harm has been caused to a five-year-old.
For voluntarily causing hurt, Soo could have been jailed up to two years, fined up to S$2,000, or both.