Woman given jail for scratching, punching mother-in-law in fight, other family members face charges
SINGAPORE: While trying to break up a fight between her father and her husband, a woman was pushed by her mother-in-law and began scuffling with her.
In the fight that ensued, the woman punched, scratched and bit her mother-in-law, leaving a laceration on her eye.
Chen Xu Jia, 38, who is now divorced, was sentenced on Monday (Nov 2) to a week's jail for voluntarily causing hurt to her former mother-in-law.
Her father, as well as her ex-husband and his mother face separate charges for this case.
The court heard that Chen was married to 39-year-old Zhao Ting at the time of the offence on Jan 21 last year.
Chen was described by her lawyer Chung Ting Fai as "a battered wife" who was allegedly beaten by her former husband multiple times.
On the night of the incident, Chen got into an argument with her husband over the care of their younger daughter.
Chen's 65-year-old father and Zhao's 67-year-old mother, who were in the house at the time, heard the argument and went to the master bedroom.
Both parents took out their phones to film the argument their children were having. Chen's father accidentally nudged Zhao's mother against a cabinet.
A fight broke out between Zhao and his father-in-law, with the younger man punching the older man in the head, eyes and chest as well as biting his forearm and ear.
At some point, Zhao's mother punched Chen's father, who pushed her back so she fell and knocked her head against a table.
Chen's mother tried to intervene but was punched by Zhao.
Chen also tried to intervene in the fight between her father and husband, but her mother-in-law pushed her towards the bed in the master bedroom, and the two women began fighting.
During the course of the scuffle, Chen's mother-in-law grabbed her hair and knocked her head against the floor, while the younger woman punched the older woman in the head and eye region, scratched her eye and bit her left arm.
An unidentified woman called the police asking them to come quickly and all the family members were taken to hospital.
Chen's mother-in-law was found with injuries including bruising around her eye with multiple scratch marks and a laceration on her eye. She was warded for observation for three days. Her laceration was stitched up and she was discharged against advice.
All the other family members also sustained injuries including scratch marks, bruises and bite marks, while Chen had bruises over her scalp and hand.
Chen pleaded guilty to the charge, with Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Wei Liang asking for at least a week's jail.
He said Chen's mother-in-law suffered from multiple injuries and had to be warded, with the blows inflicted at a vulnerable part of her body.
However, he said he was not asking for an uplift of the sentence as Chen did not appear to be the one who started the fight. She also suffered injuries herself, he said.
A BATTERED WIFE: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Chung Ting Fai said "this is the case of a battered wife", adding that his client's then-husband had beaten her multiple times.
"Because of the long period of harassment that she's (undergoing), this case unfortunately (erupted) in a very unfortunate incident that took place in which I think various family members are facing charges," said Mr Chung.
Because of this incident, the couple has divorced and split custody of their children, keeping minimal contact with each other, he said.
He urged the court for mercy and impose only a fine, saying that jailing his client would not serve any purpose in terms of rehabilitation.
The judge said she considered all the factors raised and found that the threshold for a short jail term had been crossed. She granted Chen two weeks' deferment to settle her matters before serving her term.
The cases for Chen's father, husband and mother-in-law are pending, and they are set to return to court for pre-trial conferences.