SINGAPORE — A couple who made headlines for committing horrific acts on their five-year-old son, including confining him in a cage meant for cats and burning him with boiling hot water, were sentenced to 27 years’ jail each on Monday (13 July).
Azlin Arujunah will get an additional 12 months’ jail in lieu of caning while Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman will receive 24 strokes of the cane. Both individuals, who are 28, had claimed trial to a charge of murder with common intention, for causing bodily injury sufficient to cause death.
They were cleared of this charge earlier this year after Justice Valerie Thean ruled that “common intention” had to be formed before the offence was committed. She added that she could not infer such an intention from the medical evidence, which showed only a “collective injury”.
The judge also cleared Ridzuan of his charge of causing hurt by means of heated substance by burning his son’s palm with a heated metal spoon around September 2016, while his wife was acquitted of abetting him in the offence.
The couple were later convicted of the amended charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt, endangering the child’s life, and other charges, including ill treating their child and voluntarily causing hurt.
Azlin had handed the boy to a close friend to foster in March 2011 when he was one month old. She was unable to care for him then, but took him back in May 2015, when he was four. The victim then shared a one-room rental flat with three siblings and his parents.
The boy was subjected to his parents’ brutal torture in their one-room Toa Payoh rental flat over a three-month period in 2016. They assaulted him with a broom, cigarette ash and pliers, causing him to suffer from a misaligned kneecap, a broken nose, bruises and cuts over his head and face.
After his parents scalded him with hot water on at least four occasions, the boy, then five years and nine months old, collapsed and never recovered. His parents, who have five other young children, brought him to the hospital more than six hours later, as they feared being arrested. The boy died on 23 October 2016 and the couple was arrested within the next two days.
He had suffered second to third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body from being scalded with hot water.
On Monday, the prosecution asked for life imprisonment for Azlin and Ridzuan.
Delivering the sentence, Justice Thean said that abuse had become a “joint action” for the couple, adding that living under challenging circumstances was not an excuse for their actions.
“The duty of a parent subsists regardless of economic and social circumstances. In this particular case, in any case, and even more inexcusably, help was available,” said the judge, noting that the parents were able to get help if needed.
During their trial, the court was told that Ridzuan had a troubled childhood and was suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, and hypnotic use disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
A defence psychiatrist testified that Azlin took drugs to cope with the stress of taking care of her children. She also suffered from an adjustment disorder with depressed mood at the time of the offences.
However, the judge did not give any mitigating weight to the couple’s psychiatric conditions. Azlin’s conditions did not cause substantial impairment of her self control, and there was insufficient evidence to show that Ridzwan suffered from intermittent explosive disorder, hypnotic use disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, said the judge.
While the psychiatrists accepted that Ridzuan was suffering from anti-social personality disorder, one of them expressed certainty that it did not affect his impulse control or diminish his mental responsibility for the offences, noted Justice Thean.
On whether one parent ought to be found more culpable than the other, Judge Thean said that there was no clear indication that one was more responsible than the other, as both had joint and equal responsibility for the well being of their child.
While the prosecution had argued that Azlin was more culpable as she had initiated two instances of violence, Ridzuan was the one who introduced the culture of family violence and initiated the abuse on their son in July, said the judge.
Being the stronger parent, Ridzuan’s use of force would have added greater injury, and his participation in the incidents would have led directly to the outcome, noted the judge.
The prosecution said it has filed appeals against the murder acquittals of both Azlin and Ridzuan.
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