SINGAPORE: A mother of three children was sentenced to jail for six years and six months on Monday (Jul 8) for repeatedly abusing her toddler, causing severe brain injury that led to cerebral palsy.
The 27-year-old woman, who cannot be named due to a gag order, had yanked on her child’s arm so hard that it caused a fracture, and left the injury untreated.
She also punched the child, who was less than two years old, more than five times on his chest as she was frustrated that he was not listening to her instructions.
The abuse was uncovered only after the 23-month-old boy had to be taken to hospital with multiple skull fractures. He had been slapped by his mother so hard that he fell, hit his head and shook violently.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Chua on Monday urged the court for the sentence that was eventually given, saying that this was a case where a defenceless child was systematically abused by his biological mother over several occasions.
MOTHER'S ACTIONS "SENSELESS AND BRUTAL": PROSECUTOR
Calling the mother's actions "senseless and brutal", the prosecutor said the accused tried concealing her abuse of the boy. He is the second of her three children, who were fathered by two different men.
On Mar 25 last year, the mother was bathing her other two children when she saw that the freshly-bathed victim was digging into his diapers and playing with his excrement.
She slapped him once, but he did it again, and she slapped him hard on the other cheek.
The force of the slap was so great that the boy hit his head against the leg of a metal table and started wailing. His body then began shaking violently.
Suspecting that her child was suffering fits, the mother tried to massage him with some oil but the boy had become semi-conscious and was barely responsive.
She first called her friend for advice instead of calling for an ambulance immediately, said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor added that although her child was fighting for his life at this time, the mother's concern "was just to save her own skin", as she was trying to avoid detection.
She "did not bother accompanying the victim to the hospital", choosing instead to remain at home with her other children, said the prosecutor.
BOY HAD FRACTURED SKULL, INJURED BRAIN
At the hospital, the boy was found to have fractured his skull; a part of his brain was compressed and injured due to the accumulation of blood.
He also had multiple bruises on his head, with bruising and two red marks with broken skin over his back.
He was transferred to the children's intensive care unit at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
As a result of his severe brain injury, the boy now has spastic-dystonic cerebral palsy and global developmental delay. He is likely to be dependent for all activities of daily living and mobility, and still feeds through a tube as of January this year, the court heard.
"After Child Protection Services took over the case, the accused has not been in contact with the victim at all, and did not request to see him," said the prosecutor.
"After destroying the victim's life, we have confirmed with Child Protection Services that she will be giving up custody of the victim for adoption."
The prosecutor added that it was "irresponsible" and "appalling" for the mother, who caused the situation, to wash her hands of the victim.
ACCUSED WAS EFFECTIVELY A SINGLE MOTHER: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer John Koh had asked for no more than five-and-a-half years' jail, saying that his client was genuinely remorseful and willing to accept the consequences of what she did.
"My client is 27. She is still relatively young," said the lawyer. "At the time of her first child, she was only 23, so the burden of motherhood at such a young age can sometimes be very overwhelming."
Pointing out that his client had cooperated fully with authorities and pleaded guilty at the earliest instance, Mr Koh said the mother came from "a rather disadvantaged family" and was the one caring for the children.
"Her now ex-husband was always unavailable for the family and for herself," said the lawyer. "This has left her effectively to be a single mother, although she's married. She's tried her very best to juggle her family life with her work life."
The accused has also been diagnosed with depression, said Mr Koh.
"All these instances transpired in the spur of the moment, when my client snapped under the circumstances. There was no element of deliberation or premeditation, neither was there use of any weapon," said the lawyer.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong told the mother: "It must not have been easy for you as a young mother to be raising a family. However, you could have sought assistance instead of venting your anger against the victim. This is a serious case of physical abuse."