SINGAPORE: A 47-year-old man who barged into his daughter’s classroom and slapped a nine-year-old boy she claimed had bullied her was sentenced to two weeks’ jail on Wednesday (Jul 19).
The father of five was convicted in January and fined S$3,500 for hurting the boy, who was so scared he wet his pants.
Prosecutors, who had sought a four-week jail term, lodged an appeal. They said the judge had been “overly lenient” and had “glossed over” the man’s “violent conduct”, choosing to characterise the assault as “uncharacteristic” despite a previous conviction for assault with a weapon. The judge had also “dismissed” the boy’s injuries – his left cheek had turned red and swollen – as “slight”.
A fine is “manifestly inadequate” in this case, deputy public prosecutors Christina Koh and Sarah Ong said.
High Court Justice See Kee Oon agreed. “He had no business entering the classroom at all, let alone confronting the boy in front of the entire class and their teacher,” Justice See said.
The father’s conduct was “inexcusable”, he added.
On Oct 7, 2015, the man's daughter told her mother she did not want to go to school because of the boy, who “liked” to “disturb” her, the High Court heard.
The mother asked her husband to take their daughter to school and, along the way, he told the girl he would speak to the principal about the bullying.
When they arrived at the school, the man took his daughter to her classroom on the third floor. He barged in, interrupting the class, and asked his daughter to point out the boy she claimed had bullied her.
“Boy, you come. I want to ask you something,” the father said to the nine-year-old.
He confronted the child, and accused him of bullying his daughter. When the boy denied it, the father slapped him.
The boy burst into tears and wet his pants. The father continued to “hurl accusations” at the boy even as the teacher stepped in and pulled the child to stand behind her, shielding him.
He also prevented another student from leaving the classroom to get help.
The father then “self-righteously justified his conduct by, ironically, ‘lecturing’ the entire class of impressionable young children that it was wrong to bully others or to behave like (a) gangster”, Justice See said.
In court on Wednesday, the man said he had slapped the boy only “a little bit”. He claimed he used four fingers to “tap” the boy’s face. When shown a photograph of the boy’s red and swollen cheek, the man replied that the child had “sensitive skin”.
He also said the episode served as a “life lesson” to the children. “When next time they go to the society they think that when you go bully people, people will find something to fine you (sic),” he had said. He also blamed lax security at the school, saying it could have been “tightened a bit to protect all the children”.
Prosecutors criticised his “excuses”, “warped logic” and “disturbing lack of remorse”.
“The slap was forceful enough to leave visible redness and finger marks on the victim’s cheek,” Justice See said. “The victim being a nine-year-old child, this should not be trivialised as a ‘slight’ injury,” he added.
About the school’s security, Justice See said: “He may not have lied or deceived the school security guard in order to gain access … but it certainly does not lie in his mouth to level criticism at the school’s lax security for ‘enabling’ him to enter the school to commit the offence.
“What is especially aggravating is (the man’s) deplorable violation of the sanctity of the school environment and the distress and disquiet caused to the children and their teacher.”
The boy is no longer a student at the school. In a statement, the now 10-year-old said he still has nightmares of being slapped.
CLAIMS OF REMORSE "SELF-SERVING AND INSINCERE": JUDGE
On Wednesday, the man pleaded not to be sent to jail. He and his wife are hawkers, and he is needed at their stall, he told the court.
He also said he was remorseful, pointing to an apology and compensation offer of S$6.80 he made to the boy’s father, which were rejected.
But Justice See called the man’s claims of remorse “self-serving”.
“This was a case where he plainly had no defence. No fewer than 40 students, including his own daughter and their teacher were witnesses to what he did,” Justice See said.
“His ostensible remorse manifested itself only after he was charged in court … his email apology to the school and the victim, along with the offer of compensation, only came in January 2017, after he was convicted.
“Quite clearly, (his) efforts were self-serving and insincere … in the hope of earning himself credit for a lighter sentence,” Justice See said. He added that a fine was “manifestly inadequate” and “wrong in principle”, and sentenced the father to two weeks’ jail.
For voluntarily causing hurt, the man could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to S$5,000.