Father admits to hitting infant son's head, causing skull fractures and permanent disabilities

Wan Ting Koh
Singapore’s State Courts (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

When a six-month-old infant’s cries in the wee hours of the morning woke him up, the frustrated father smacked the baby once on the head.

The force of the blow caused the infant’s skull to fracture in multiple places. It also resulted in trauma to the brain that has caused permanent physical and intellectual disabilities.

On Thursday (8 November) in the State Courts, the father, 30, admitted to one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to his biological son, now two years and eight months old.

As a result of the incident, the toddler and his older brother, aged three years and nine months, have been placed under foster care.

The younger boy is unable to perform simple functions independently and cannot form speech. Due to his injuries, his developmental age is now that of a four-month-old.

A baby girl, the boys’ younger sister, is still in the care of her 26-year-old mother.

None of the parties involved can be named to protect the toddler’s identity.

The facts of the case

The court heard that on 26 August 2016, between 1am and 3am, the mother was awakened by her son’s crying. She fed the baby and carried him, but he did not stop crying. The noise eventually woke the father.

In frustration, the man shouted, “Shut up la, shut up la. Later I have work, you make noise, I cannot sleep.” He then hit the baby, who was seated on his mother’s lap, on the head with his right hand.

The force of the blow pushed the baby aside but the mother managed to hold onto him to prevent him from falling.

The father eventually calmed down and sat the baby on his lap. The baby vomited on the floor a short while later. His father patted him to sleep before going back to bed.

The baby woke up again at about 8am and behaved normally. He played with his elder brother until his mother fed him at about 11am.

But when the mother checked on the baby about two hours later, she found that he looked semi-conscious and weak, according to the prosecution. She called an ambulance which conveyed the baby to the hospital.

The baby was admitted to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital while barely conscious. A CT scan of his head showed that he had multiple skull fractures and a haemorrhage, along with excess fluid in his brain. He also sustained a haemorrhage in both eyes along with bleeding in the right eye amongst other injuries.

The baby underwent an operation. After he was discharged from intensive care to the general ward, he developed symptoms of vomiting, lethargy, irritability and other neurological movement disorders due to brain injuries. 

The baby was discharged on 2 March last year – nearly seven months after the incident – and placed under foster care.

Permanent disabilities

A medical report dated 12 October this year stated that the baby still suffered from disabilities. His foster parents observed that he is unable to sit up, move, turn or flip on his own. He is unable to move his limbs voluntarily and cannot react to a blanket which covered his face.

The baby is also unable to do anything independently and can only cry when he is in pain. He needs to be constantly watched to ensure that he is not in danger, and has to be fed through a feeding tube. Due to these conditions, the baby often has sleepless, crying nights and is unable to lie flat on his back.

The baby has been diagnosed with dystonic cerebral palsy, a condition where the muscles spasm painfully. He also has other conditions such as epilepsy, left hip dislocation and obstructive sleep apnea.

The medical report noted that the baby will likely continue to require assistance for daily living and mobility.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kumerasan Gohulabalan said that this was a case of a caregiver who “abused the trust placed in him and with a single act of violence, changed the outlook of the victim’s life”.

Even though the child was already two years and eight months old, the incident halted his cognitive and physical development, added the DPP. The child remains unable to react to dangerous situations and is at risk of increased injury to himself due to the developmental delays.

The prosecution sought a jail term of five and a half years, and six strokes of the cane for the man.

Lawyer Shehzhadee Abdul Rahman, who represented the father, called for a jail term of four years and six strokes of the cane.

She said that the father of three was a “doting father who provides for his children to the best of his ability”.

As the father works two jobs as a driver, he is constantly tired, said the lawyer. The man’s actions proceeded from a “momentary lapse of judgement” and he is “riddled with guilt to this day” said the lawyer, who was assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

The lawyer said that the father still accompanies the child to medical appointments and maintains a relationship with him.

He will be sentenced on Friday.

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