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Singapore

Former employee at adult home pleads guilty to assaulting resident with autism, epilepsy

Former employee at adult home pleads guilty to assaulting resident with autism, epilepsy
Photo illustration of a person being abused.

SINGAPORE: An employee at a home for adults assaulted a resident who had autism, mild intellectual disability and epilepsy, leaving him with a large bruise on his thigh that his mother later discovered.

The 29-year-old Indian national pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Sep 21) to two charges of voluntarily causing hurt to a vulnerable victim.

The victim's identity, as well as the name of the home and anything that could reveal either of these pieces of information, cannot be published due to gag orders imposed by the court.

The court heard that the accused was on a work permit as a "care staff worker" at the adult home. At the time of the offences, he had worked there for more than a year.

The victim, a 36-year-old man, had been a resident at the home since 2019 and was given weekly home leave. The accused had been taking care of him since 2019.

The assault took place over two incidents on the same day on Sep 9 last year.

The accused was at the activity area in the home with the victim when the victim approached him and grabbed the accused's shirt collar.

The accused threw the victim to the ground, pinned him down by holding his hands and placing his knee on the victim's stomach.

He then stood up and stepped on the victim's stomach once while the victim was on the ground. He then dragged the victim by his hands to the centre of the room before kicking him five times on his thigh.

The victim later stood up and removed his pants and underwear. The accused said there was some faeces in the victim's underwear, so he took the victim to the toilet to clean up.

The incident was captured on closed-circuit television footage.

COLLEAGUE SAW THE ASSAULT BUT WALKED AWAY

One of the accused's colleagues saw the accused stepping on the victim's stomach and kicking his thigh. The victim saw the woman and pointed towards her but the accused told her not to get involved.

The woman walked away and did not think of reporting the matter as she did not want to get into trouble, the court heard.

Another care staff worker was seen walking towards the room after the incident in closed-circuit television footage.

The victim waved at her, but the accused looked in the woman's direction and raised a finger at her, so she turned and left.

Later that same day, the victim approached the accused again and touched his collar. After some gesturing, the accused walked away, but the victim followed him.

While the victim was on the floor, the accused grabbed the victim's outstretched hand and dragged him by the hand before kicking him three times.

As the accused was kicking the victim, another care worker entered the room. She had heard the accused shouting and walked in to find the victim on the floor.

After seeing the accused kick the victim once, she asked him to stop. He told her he could handle the matter and asked her to leave, but she stayed, and he stopped his assault.

The woman took the victim out of the room but did not report the matter. This incident was also captured in CCTV footage.

MOTHER DISCOVERS BRUISE

On Sep 12, 2020, the victim returned home for his weekly home leave. His mother accompanied him to the toilet and found a big bruise at the back of his thigh, stretching down from his hip.

She contacted the care staff at the home on the matter, but was dissatisfied with their replies and wrote an email to the CEO of the centre that oversaw the home.

The CEO later informed her that her son had been assaulted by a worker at the home, and that it was captured on camera. He apologised profusely to her, and she accepted his apology, allowing the home to take the necessary further action.

The victim was seen at a hospital 12 days after the assault and observed to have a 3cm by 4cm bruise over his thigh.

An Institute of Mental Health (IMH) report stated that the victim was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, mild intellectual disability and epilepsy associated with behavioural problems.

He was assessed to have poor communication abilities and would require assistance or supervision in activities of daily living.

The IMH report highlighted that the victim had a "long-standing history of showing aggressive behaviours towards other people and property since a young age" and was admitted to IMH on 22 occasions for behavioural problems mainly stemming from aggressive behaviour.

However, the report noted that the victim's behaviour had been relatively stable since his admission to the adult home.

The CEO of the centre overseeing the home explained during investigations that people with autism may occasionally grab onto another person's shirt due to anxiety, and this could lead to aggression if not handled properly.

However, he noted that the staff members at the home had been trained for such situations to disengage the resident without the use of disproportionate force.

The judge adjourned sentencing to Oct 28, asking the prosecution to address him on the significant difference in sentencing asked for by the prosecution and the defence. 

For voluntarily causing hurt, the accused could be jailed up to three years and fined up to S$5,000. As the victim was a vulnerable person, the accused is liable for enhanced penalties.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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