ITE knife attack

Teen gets chance to reform

Muhammad Zuhairie slashed another teenager at the ITE College West campus last year. He was originally given 18 months' jail and six strokes of the cane but, after an appeal, he will now be sent for reformative training, a strict regime of between 18
Muhammad Zuhairie slashed another teenager at the ITE College West campus last year. He was originally given 18 months' jail and six strokes of the cane but, after an appeal, he will now be sent for reformative training, a strict regime of between 18 months and three years.PHOTO: TNP READER

Judge sends him for reformative training after hearing about 'unstable' family life on appeal

A 17-year-old student who slashed another teenager with a bread knife on an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) campus last year was given a chance to reform yesterday.

This was after the High Court heard an appeal that detailed his "unstable" family background.

Instead of 18 months' jail and six strokes of the cane, Muhammad Zuhairie Adely Zulkifli will now undergo reformative training, a strict regime of between 18 months and three years that aims to rehabilitate young offenders.

In allowing Zuhairie's appeal, Justice Chan Seng Onn told the teen he was prepared to give him a chance because of his youth.

The judge reminded Zuhairie that he had committed a serious offence and urged him to learn to manage his anger. "You better make use of this opportunity to reform yourself," said the judge.

Earlier, Zuhairie's lawyer Benny Tan provided details of his upbringing in a bid to get the court to understand his violent act against Mr Ahmad Nurthaqif Sahed, 18.

Zuhairie was raised in an "unstable home environment, characterised by financial difficulties, inconsistent parental care and domestic violence", said Mr Tan, citing a government psychological report.

Both his parents abused substances at home, and were in and out of jail for various offences.

The report said Zuhairie witnessed domestic violence as a child, and that might have led him to "understand interpersonal relationships through hostile attribution and physical aggression".

In 2012, at age 12, he was placed in the care of the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home. It was the home that approached Mr Tan's firm, Trident Law Corporation, to take up Zuhairie's case.

Zuhairie showed leadership skills and positive progress at the home and performed well at Northlight School. He is now studying to sit his N levels again.

Mr Tan said prison would expose him to the negative influences of hardened criminals and send the message that his rehabilitation is not important. Reformative training could provide him with the guidance his parents did not give him, and also have a deterrent effect.

The prosecution argued that Zuhairie had a proclivity towards violence and reformative training was insufficient punishment for his brazen attack. It said a deterrent sentence was warranted in this case.

Zuhairie first met the victim on March 7 last year in Clarke Quay. He knew Mr Nurthaqif's girlfriend, and called her "baby", which led Mr Nurthaqif to confront him.

Three days later, Zuhairie saw Mr Nurthaqif again at ITE College West, where Zuhairie was a student. Mr Nurthaqif was there to meet his girlfriend.

Zuhairie confronted Mr Nurthaqif, then went to his locker, took a bread knife with a 35cm blade and charged at Mr Nurthaqif, who was with his girlfriend at the time.

Zuhairie slashed the victim and continued swinging the knife even as he tried to run away. The attack left the victim with multiple slash wounds and fractures on his arm and fingers.

In October last year, Zuhairie pleaded guilty to voluntarily causing grievous hurt and an unrelated charge of rioting. A third charge of escaping from the home was taken into consideration.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Teen gets chance to reform'. Print Edition | Subscribe