Singapore

Increased jail term for mum who fatally abused son

Apex Court agrees that her 'personality aberrations' were not mitigating factors

A woman who assaulted her four-year-old son so violently that he died had her original jail term of eight years increased to 14½ years yesterday after the prosecution appealed.

Noraidah Mohd Yussof, 35, had pushed her son repeatedly, resulting in him hitting his head on the floor.

She also stepped on him, grabbed him by the neck and lifted him while pushing him against a wall.

She was taking out her frustration on the boy because he could not recite the numbers 11 to 18 in Malay correctly. He died from a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain.

Last year, Noraidah was sentenced by the High Court to eight years' jail after pleading guilty to two counts each of causing grievous hurt and ill-treating a child. Two other counts of ill-treatment were considered during sentencing.

The prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal for a heavier sentence of at least 12 years' jail.

IMPULSIVELY

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kow Keng Siong argued that the lower court was wrong to accept Noraidah's "personality aberrations" as mitigating factors. These included a very low tolerance for frustration and a tendency to act impulsively.

He argued that personality aberrations did not amount to a recognisable mental disorder.

If people are entitled to lenient sentences because of their impulsive or aggressive nature, it was tantamount to giving them an excuse to give in to their emotions and act out their frustrations without self-restraint, he said.

Deterrence was a relevant sentencing factor, he added, citing statistics showing a rise in child abuse cases.

Last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development investigated 873 child abuse cases, compared to 551 in 2015.

Noraidah's lawyer, Ms Diana Ngiam, argued that the lower court was correct to consider her personality aberrations together with her inability to cope and bond with her son.

The apex court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong, agreed with the prosecution's arguments.

The Chief Justice said the gravity of the case was aggravated by the extreme youth of the boy and that Noraidah had a duty to protect him, but her pattern of conduct pointed to cruelty towards the defenceless boy.

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