SINGAPORE: Singapore’s highest court on Thursday (Jul 6) moved to significantly raise the eight-year sentence of 35-year-old single mother convicted of child abuse.
Noraidah Mohd Yussof, who abused her four-year-old son Airyl to death, had her jail term increased to 14 and a half years instead.
She assaulted the little boy on multiple occasions, ultimately causing his death in August 2014, after she flew into a rage because he could not count in Malay.
In that episode, Noraidah shoved Airyl to the ground and stomped on his knees. A while later, she grabbed the boy’s neck, lifting him off the ground and holding him up against the wall. When she let go, Airyl fell to the floor, unconscious.
He died four days after he was sent to hospital with a brain injury and fractured skull. His condition had deteriorated so much, his family decided to take him off life support.
The boy had suffered at her hands for years. In July 2014, Noraidah assaulted him for urinating on the floor and for not being able to recite the alphabet. She also stood on the boy’s stomach.
And in 2012, when Airyl was two, Noraidah had shoved him to the floor and twisted his arm for scribbling on the sofa. He suffered multiple fractures.
On Thursday, prosecutors urged the Court of Appeal – comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong – to increase Noraidah’s sentence to at least 12 years.
“This was not a mother who acted in desperation or as a cry for help”, prosecutors argued. “She had no affection for (her son), and treated him cruelly and without an ounce of compassion.
"She deserves none herself.”
The prosecution also argued the High Court Judge had “erred” in regarding Noraidah’s “personality aberrations” – including a tendency to “act impulsively” and resort to “aggression” in stressful situations – as mitigating.
“(This amounts to saying Noraidah) was aggressive and impulsive in nature. We find it impossible to see how this should be regarded as mitigating”, the Court of Appeal said. They also disagreed with the judge’s categorisation of the abuse as “a crime of passion”.
The apex court also noted Noraidah’s offences are aggravated by the “extreme youth” of Airyl, the fact that his tormentor was his own mother, who had a duty to protect him, and “the fact that (Noraidah’s) pattern of conduct as a while pointed to cruelty towards a defenceless child”.
Noraidah’s lawyer, Ms Diana Ngiam, had urged the court not to raise the sentence, arguing that she will have to live with “(the) immense regret for ending her son’s life” for the rest of hers.
The single mother had a difficult time trying to bond with her son, Ms Ngiam told the court. Airyl’s father abdandoned Noraidah when she was seven months pregnant, and when she gave birth, she was in no shape to look after a newborn.
The mother felt “handicapped” and “paralysed”, Ms Ngiam said. Noraidah’s mother took over as Airyl’s primary caretaker, although the family lived under one roof. The only times Noraidah had sole care of her son was in March 2012, when her mother went on holiday, and in July and August 2014, when she moved out of the family home with Airyl and his older sister.
It was when she was alone, overwhelmed and struggling to bond with her son that she lashed out at him, Ms Ngiam told the court. Airyl was “suddenly thrust" into Noraidah’s care, and the mother could not cope without the familial support she relied on and “desperately needed”, the lawyer said.
“This was a mother who simply could not cope with the constant frustration and exasperation of not being able to (bond with her son)”, Ms Ngiam said. She noted that Noraidah shared a close relationship with her daughter, whom she brought up without problems.