SINGAPORE: A 44-year-old man was jailed for seven weeks on Monday (Apr 29) for pushing a 10-year-old boy, causing a fracture in his ribs.
According to the man's defence lawyer, the boy had been bullying his son for more than two years.
Tan Chin Tai pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the boy, who was then in Primary 4, at a school that cannot be identified in order to protect the victim's identity.
The court heard that Tan had approached the boy after the boy's lesson on Jul 7, 2017.
They were heading towards the school gate when Tan grabbed the handle of the boy's bag, moving him backwards. Tan then grabbed the boy's chest and pushed him to a nearby rubbish shed, pushing him onto the wall and scolding him.
He said: "Just because you are bigger in size, you can bully others." He also added that "since you can bully my son, I can bully you".
The boy felt pain in his chest and went to hospital, where an X-ray revealed that he sustained a small fracture in one of his ribs.
VICTIM BULLIED TAN'S SON DAILY: DEFENCE
Tan's defence lawyer, Cory Wong from Invictus Law, asked the court for a fine or not more than four weeks' jail for his client, who was an adjunct teacher registered under the Ministry of Education's (MOE) database.
He said the victim had been bullying Tan's son daily in front of other students, allegedly abusing him with vulgarities, including Hokkien words and cursing at his mother.
Mr Wong added that the victim would push and taunt Tan's son whenever he saw him in school.
Mr Wong said his client had gone to a teacher to report the bullying after hearing about it from his son, "but alas nothing concrete materialised from the reports".
"Tan was instead told that the victim had anger management issues and felt that his concerns were being brushed aside," said Mr Wong.
The bullying purportedly continued to the point that both Tan and his wife considered switching schools for their son.
It was at this time that the offence took place, said the defence. Tan was at the school that day to pick his son up when he spotted the victim walking out by chance.
After the incident, Mr Wong claimed, the bullying against Tan's son grew worse, with the victim allegedly saying that "playing with (him) will cause them to be fractured by (his) dad".
PARENTS SHOULD BE ADULTS, TAN WAS NOT: PROSECUTOR
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wei Ming pushed instead for at least eight to nine weeks' jail, saying that the case was of an adult hitting a child, who is a vulnerable victim.
"We should call a spade a spade and a fracture a fracture," said the prosecutor, addressing the defence's argument that the fracture was a small one.
"That will be more intellectually honest. And rather than trying to divide the impact of the fracture I urge the court to consider - what is aggravating. This is a case when we have an adult taking advantage of a vulnerable victim."
He added that just because the teacher may not have effected any change, "that doesn't mean the accused could literally take justice into his own hands".
The prosecutor questioned, "what message are we sending to society" if a light sentence was given.
He added that Tan could have escalated the matter to the discipline master, the principal or even to MOE, but instead attacked the boy.
"Parents should be the adult. In this case, this accused was not the adult," said the prosecutor.
While he acknowledged that Tan had offered compensation to the victim of about S$200, he said the victim had not yet accepted the money as he wanted to make sure it would not affect the outcome of the case.
District Judge Christopher Tan said he had difficulty with the defence's case focusing so heavily on the bullying allegations.
"I think we also know that for 10-year-old children, bullying and disputes do happen and that has to be dealt with according to a certain framework," said the judge.
"If I take the position that such behaviour between children justifies an adult going to school and inflicting the kind of injury that happened in this case ... what kind of precedent would that set?"
Sentencing Tan to seven weeks' jail, the judge said imposing a fine would be too soft an approach taken, with ramifications to follow, but said he took into account that Tan's act was not premeditated and instead happened on the spur of the moment.
He allowed Tan to have some time to speak with his friends after the hearing, before being taken away to start his sentence.
Tan is no longer employed by any MOE school, said the ministry in response to CNA's queries.
"MOE takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take appropriate action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline. This could even include termination of service," said the ministry.