SINGAPORE: The High Court granted an appeal on Tuesday (May 8) for a man to be given a jail sentence of five weeks after he bit his wife's leg and hit her with an umbrella in front of their young daughter.
Satesh Navarlan had been given a Short Detention Order (SDO) of 14 days and a Day Reporting Order of nine months by the District Court, but the sentence has been increased to five weeks imprisonment by the High Court after an appeal by the prosecution.
In his grounds of decision, Justice Tay Yong Kwang pointed to Satesh's history of alcohol abuse and "propensity of violence against his wife", as well as his high level of culpability.
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BIT WIFE'S LEG, BROKE PROTECTION ORDER
On Feb 1, 2018, Satesh came home intoxicated around 2.30am and headed to the bedroom where his wife was with their then five-year-old daughter. He pulled the blanket away from his wife, grabbed her right leg and bit it.
His wife had previously obtained a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against him in September 2014, restraining him from using violence against her.
About 10 minutes after the biting incident, his wife asked Satesh to wash up because he reeked of alcohol. He responded strangely by rolling around on the bed. Worried for their daughter, the wife brought her out of the bedroom and into the living room.
Satesh followed them out and an argument ensued, with him throwing several punches at his wife.
She grabbed an umbrella and attempted to block the blows, but was hit on her left cheek. Satesh then grabbed the umbrella and swung it at his wife, using it to hit her on both flanks.
During the encounter, Satesh mocked the way his wife used the umbrella, the court was told.
"He snatched the umbrella from her and used it to hit her body while sarcastically and sadistically telling her, 'This is how it works!'" Justice Tay wrote in his grounds of decision.
The young child told her grandfather, who was at home at the time, about the incident. He attempted to separate Satesh and his wife. The wife then tried to call the police but Satesh snatched the phone from her and threw it on the floor.
He tried to stop her from leaving the flat after assaulting her, and chased her to the lift when she fled with her daughter.
After reporting the incident to the police, she sought refuge at a community shelter. The court was told she has not returned home to live with Satesh since.
As a result of the attacks, she suffered from “tenderness over her left cheek, forehead, left side of neck and left chest wall with thoracic region".
SHORT DETENTION ORDER
In his mitigation plea to the district judge who meted out the initial sentence, Satesh said: “I would like to reiterate that the offence is out of character for which I am extremely remorseful ...”.
Satesh received an SDO of 14 days, which meant he would have been detained in prison for that period of time. He would also handed a Day Reporting Order of nine months, along with mandatory counselling sessions.
The community-based sentence meant Satesh would have gone without a criminal record, unlike a jail sentence.
The District Judge had ruled that the community-based sentence was sufficient as there were reasons to believe Satesh could be rehabilitated. This was based off Satesh's enrolment in an Alcoholics Anonymous group and his assertions that his wife had reconciled with him.
After sentencing, the prosecution appealed and sought an imprisonment term of at least four weeks, stating the "dominant sentence in this case should be deterrence" and that "too much weight" had been placed on the principle of rehabilitation and Satesh's mitigation plea.
Satesh sought for a high fine to be imposed, with his counsel stating it was a "once-off event". He claimed his actions were in retaliation to his wife hitting him first.
"RELENTLESS ASSAULT SHOWED HIS TRUE SELF": JUDGE
In making his decision to sentence Satesh to a jail term instead, the High Court judge pointed out that while the wife's injuries may not have been "very serious", Satesh's "culpability was certainly very high".
"(His) relentless assault against his wife in the presence of their then five-year-old daughter after returning home in an intoxicated state at past 2am and rudely waking them up showed his true self," Justice Tay said, noting how Satesh had mocked his wife while hitting her with the umbrella.
"One can imagine what the acts of the respondent that day and his history of spousal violence must have done to his wife’s and their young daughter’s sense of security and peace of mind.
"His wife obviously could not tolerate his drunken violence any more when she decided to move out of the matrimonial flat with her daughter and to seek refuge at a family centre."
She filed for divorce a week after the assault, the judge added.
The court was told that Satesh had an alcohol problem for more than 10 years, to the point a PPO had to be made against him in 2014 after he injured his wife while he was drunk.
The judge also rejected Satesh's mitigation plea that he was remorseful.
"Such a statement showed that he was either in denial or was simply unable to appreciate his propensity for violence against his wife, particularly when he had consumed too much alcohol," Justice Tay said.
"Consuming too much alcohol and getting into trouble was also not new to him. He was convicted and imprisoned in 2007 and again in 2013 for drink-driving."
He also said Satesh's "sudden decision" to enrol with Alcoholics Anonymous did not appear to be "motivated by true remorse but appeared to be a tactical move for his mitigation plea".
Satesh's wife did not proceed with the divorce, the judge said, but added that she had not moved into a new flat with him.
Justice Tay said while community-based sentences were enacted to target offenders who were "on the rehabilitation end of the spectrum", Satesh's offences did not fall under those categories.
"There was nothing to suggest that (Satesh’s) capacity for rehabilitation was so promising that the option of community-based sentencing would be appropriate in the present case," the judge said.
"On the contrary, given (his) history of alcohol abuse and propensity of violence against his wife as well as his high level of culpability, there was a strong need for specific deterrence against (him)."
He said that while Satesh had "some prospect" at rehabilitation - as mentioned by the District Judge - it did not override "the clear need for punishment".
Satesh was sentenced to five weeks imprisonment by the High Court judge.
"If (he) is genuine about quitting his alcohol habit, he can go for the relevant treatment programmes after serving the imprisonment sentence," Justice Tay said.