Man who kicked autistic child at Yishun indoor playground jailed

Screengrabs from a video showing Soo Wen Jie kicking and shoving the child at the Sunshine Childhood Playland in Northpoint City Shopping Centre on 9 April last year.

SINGAPORE — While at an indoor playground in Yishun last year, a man became so aggravated by a five-year-old who was pestering his family that he kicked the child in the belly and shoved him aside.

At the State Courts on Tuesday (4 June), 29-year-old operations supervisor Soo Wen Jie was jailed one week after pleading guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the child. Another count of a similar nature was taken into consideration for his sentencing.

The victim, who has been diagnosed with autism, cannot be named to protect his identity.

A video of the incident that made its rounds over social media showed Soo shielding his infant from the victim, who seems to have been left unsupervised in the playground at the time of the offences.

Victim was behaving aggressively

According to court documents, Soo was with his wife and two young children at the Sunshine Childhood Playland in Northpoint City Shopping Centre on 9 April last year when he encountered the victim.

Soo’s family were at the playground’s sand pit area when the victim entered the space. As Soo observed the victim behaving in an aggressive fashion, he stood in between his son and the victim.

At one point, the victim tried to take a toy shovel from Soo but the latter refused to let the victim have it.

After a second unsuccessful attempt to take the shovel, the frustrated boy hit Soo’s back with his hands, prompting Soo to kick the victim on his abdomen. This caused the boy to stagger backwards.

Soo then threw the shovel aside so that the victim would leave him alone. As Soo squatted down to play with his son, the victim hugged him from behind. Soo then pushed the victim away, which aggravated the latter and led him to hit Soo’s back again, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chee Ee Ling.

The victim’s actions led Soo to stand and hit the victim, causing the latter to fall.

In the video of the incident, Soo can also be seen having a brief verbal exchange with the victim while the latter gestures at a toy and attempts to take it away from Soo’s infant. When Soo tosses the toy aside, the victim hits Soo again but stops when a woman – believed to be the victim’s mother – enters the room.

The woman then takes the victim to another play area.

‘Naughty uncle beat me’

At 8pm that day, the boy complained to his mother about pain in his abdomen area.The child was brought to Yishun Polyclinic the next day where he was diagnosed with tenderness over his sternum and upper abdomen.

The victim’s mother contacted the playground to retrieve CCTV footage of the incident.

DPP Chee told the court that the victim suffered both physically and psychologically from Soo’s assault. The boy also had sleeping problems and nightmares following the encounter.

“When (his) mother hugged him, he cried and said ‘naughty uncle beat me’, ‘why uncle beat me?,” said DPP Chee, referring to a medical report. The victim was later referred to a psychologist.

“Instead of assaulting the victim, (Soo) should have gone to the owner of the playground or searched for the parent of the child or they could have left the sand pit area and played in another area of the playground.

“Instead of so doing, he chose to attack a vulnerable young boy instead, not once not twice but as evident from the CCTV footage – thrice,” said DPP Chee, who sought a one-week jail term.

Soo’s lawyer, Walter Sylvester, said that the victim had pursued the family from another part of the playground and had continued to bother the family.

He told the court that Soo had no idea that the victim was autistic and would have been more understanding if a caregiver had been present to tell him so.

Soo wanted to protect his own child and had overreacted, according to the defence lawyer, who added that the mother of the victim had posted the video on Facebook two days after the incident to “vilify” his client.

His client had also offered compensation to the boy’s mother but was rejected.

Sylvester asked for a fine or one day jail for Soo.

For voluntarily causing hurt to the boy, Soo could have been jailed up to two years, or fined up to $5,000, or both.

More Singapore stories:

Football Watch: International sides take centre stage as club season ends

Muslims and Jews in Singapore bond at break fast event

Almost 20 PMDs impounded over 3-day operation: LTA