A 37-year-old mother has been jailed in Hong Kong for 2½ years for scalding her children with hot water three times in as many days last year.
In sentencing the woman at the District Court on Tuesday, Judge Katherine Lo Kit-yee dismissed her claim that she was mentally incapacitated when she attacked her children.
Instead, she found the defendant “a stubborn lady with limited insight into her own problems”, as the woman had blamed the act on financial and marital woes.
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Lo also warned the mother against further abuse, noting that despite her clear criminal record, information available with social workers showed she was previously suspected to have mistreated her two children on at least two occasions.
Even though the children were found with old scars and bruises over their bodies, neither their father nor people who had regular contact with them prevented or reported the suspected abuse, the judge said.
“This court urges those responsible to prevent these vulnerable children from being abused, and to protect and safeguard their well-being. They should more readily come forward and prevent tragedies happening to these children,” Lo said.
Tuesday’s sentence came after the woman, whose name has been withheld by the prosecution to protect the identities of her two children, pleaded guilty last month to three assault-related charges – common assault, causing grievous bodily harm with intent, and attempt to cause grievous bodily harm.
The first assault took place at a Sha Tin flat on February 10 last year, when the mother spilled a cup of almost boiling hot water on the face of her seven-year-old son, X, to punish him for eating slowly during dinner, burning his forehead and cheek.
Two days after that, she argued with her husband over financial matters and poured a cup of hot water on the head of her 10-year-old daughter, Y, live-streaming the assault to her husband from the family’s home on a video call. After terminating the call, she scalded her son’s back using the same method.
Subsequent medical examination found the boy had suffered partial thickness burn on his lower back as well as superficial burn on his head. The girl was also found with redness on her scalp.
The children are now being cared for by their great-aunt.
The court heard the woman became introverted after she was bullied by peers in school. She got involved in frequent disputes with her husband over financial matters, as the family of four could hardly make ends meet.
When interviewed by two psychiatrists and a psychologist, the defendant accused her husband of being “stupid” and failing to offer enough support, adding she scalded her children after feeling irritated by their “noisiness”.
On Tuesday, Lo said the defendant showed little repentance for her crime, which was evident from her mitigation letter where she highlighted her own contribution and devotion to the family, but did not utter a word of concern for her children’s injuries.
The judge also warned the father he might be prosecuted for neglect in the future should he fail in his parental duties.
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