Hong Kong could learn from the United States when it comes to dealing with child abusers, a city lawmaker said on Wednesday.
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung called for an overhaul of child protection laws after a father who beat his newborn daughter so badly she is now blind and dependent on life support was sent to prison for less than seven years on Tuesday.
Chung Kei-yuen, who pleaded guilty to three counts of wilful assault and one of criminal intimidation, was sentenced to six years and three months for each assault charge, and nine weeks for the criminal intimidation, by Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam at the High Court.
However, Pang ordered that Chung serve his sentences for each assault count concurrently, meaning he will spend six years, four months and 15 days behind bars, when the criminal intimidation is taken into account.
Cheung said the sentence was “on the light side” and suggested it was time for tougher penalties for offenders, pointing to Britain and the United States as examples of where sentences are harsher.
“In many states in the US, the sentencing time can go up to 30 years for serious offences, and there is no upper limit for child sexual abuse cases,” he said.
The case was one of several shocking abuse tragedies that have come to light in the past year, including one in which a five-year-old girl died after being repeatedly thrown at the ceiling in her home, and poked in the chest with scissors.
Speaking on a radio programme on Wednesday, Cheung said: “In recent years, the number of abuse cases of children two years old and below has risen rapidly.”
Cheung pointed to the fact that there had been more deaths and serious cases of child abuse in the past two years than before, while according to the Social Welfare Department there were 554 newly reported child abuse cases in the first six months of the year, compared with 947 in the whole of 2017.
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Susan So Suk-yin, director of the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children, agreed that the upper limit for such sentencing could be reviewed.
Furthermore, both So and Cheung said child protection laws had to be looked into, particularly in terms of the duty of care for family members.
“Currently, you will only have criminal responsibility if you actively do something to harm [a child],” So said.
But, she added, other family members who are living with the abused or abuser, but do nothing to help, should also be held responsible.
“If [the perpetrator] is bigger in size than you, maybe you cannot stop him, but at least you can try to seek help by calling the police or a social worker,” she said.
However, Stephen Hung Wan-shun, a member of the Law Reform Commission subcommittee on causing or allowing the death of a child, called in to the programme and said he did not think tougher sentencing was the answer.
“When people commit [crimes], they will not think whether they will be punished more or less for the illegal activity,” he said.
But, he noted that if such abuse cases became prevalent, the court is likely to consider whether to increase the maximum sentencing time.
So and Cheung also said more preventive measures should be taken, because of the law’s limitations.
This article Hong Kong lawmaker points to no limits jail time in US after a father gets six years for beating daughter so badly she is now blind and on life support first appeared on South China Morning Post