SINGAPORE: A 25-year-old man who “senselessly and brutally” abused his girlfriend’s one-year-old son, who had to undergo emergency brain surgery to save his life, was on Monday (Sep 19) sentenced to six years and six months’ jail, and six strokes of the cane.
Franklie Tan Guang Wei had abused the boy over five months, from November 2014 until March 2015, when the semi-conscious baby was rushed to hospital after Tan pushed him off the bed.
The boy had sustained a skull fracture and had blood pooling in his brain. Now three, he is still in hospital undergoing therapy, including speech therapy and physiotherapy.
In sentencing Tan, District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said: “The most glaring and obvious aggravating factor is the fact that these acts of abuse were committed against a defenceless and vulnerable child. His only crime was the fact that he cried, a natural thing for him to do at his age, and could not be consoled, which (Tan) found frustrating.”
Tan was found guilty earlier this month of three counts of child abuse and one count of causing grievous hurt to the child.
The court heard Tan often abused the baby out of frustration whenever he cried. In one instance, he slapped the child, leaving bruises on his face. In another, he pounded the baby’s body. In yet another, he threw the baby two metres across the room.
ASSAULTS WERE “SENSELESS AND BRUTAL”: PROSECUTION
Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok urged the court to impose at least seven years’ jail and six strokes of the cane, pointing to Tan’s “brazen and persistent” abuse of the baby. Though he knew he was under investigations for suspected child abuse, Tan still “had no qualms in his continued abuse of the victim”, he told the court.
“Instead of caring for and protecting the (child) from harm, the accused took on the role of a tormentor”, APP Kok said. “The assaults arose simply because (Tan) could not cope with the (baby’s) crying. Surely, the (baby’s) behaviour must be within the accused’s reasonable contemplation. After all, the victim is but a one-year-old baby. (Tan’s) reactions were senseless and brutal”, the prosecutor added.
TAN WAS ABUSED AS A CHILD: DEFENCE
Tan’s lawyer, Mr Gino Singh, urged the court to view Tan’s offences against the backdrop of his own childhood, which was “rife with neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse” at the hands of his parents. Mr Singh thus asked the court to impose a jail term of three years and six months, and three strokes of the cane.
The baby’s near-fatal injuries were caused by “an impulsive swipe by a young man … who suffered a host of psychiatric conditions”, Mr Singh said, citing a psychiatric report which states Tan has been diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder, and has “borderline or impaired intellectual functioning”.
Mr Singh also pointed out the child is expected to make a full recovery, contrasting the case against that of Philippe Graffart, a Belgian expatriate who was jailed five years for killing his son. “The prosecution has no basis for asking for a sentence of (six years and six months’ jail and six strokes of the cane)”, Mr Singh argued.
ABUSE INVOLVING YOUNG VICTIMS DIFFICULT TO DETECT: JUDGE
In sentencing Tan, Judge Hamidah also noted there was a “clear betrayal and breach of trust”, as Tan, the baby’s “step-parent”, had sole care of the boy when his mother left for work.
The judge also noted the extent of the child’s injuries is such that he still requires treatment for the next one to two years. She added that cases of child abuse involving very young victims are especially difficult to detect.
“The law demands that such vulnerable victims be given the full protection of the law and this court would be remiss in its duty if a deterrent and severe sentence is not passed on the accused,” Judge Hamidah said.
Mr Singh said Tan intends to appeal against his sentence. The boy’s mother, who has also been charged with child abuse, is expected to go on trial later this month.