Man jailed 6 months for hitting child, burning him with iron

Fatigue no excuse for abuse, judge tells man who cared for girlfriend's nephew

A firefighter who was convicted of hitting a toddler with a plastic clothes hanger and hurting him with a heated iron was jailed for six months yesterday.

The 26-year-old accused was found guilty last month of hitting the 21-month-old boy on his hand and burning his right foot at a flat in Choa Chu Kang on Jan 7, 2011.

Neither he nor the victim - who is his girlfriend's nephew - can be named due to a gag order.

During the trial, the court heard that the accused was the only one caring for the child when the incident happened. He was sleeping when the boy's cries woke him up. He found the victim in the living room and the whole place in a mess.

Angered by this, he used the plastic hanger to hit the boy on the hand. He had denied using the iron to burn the boy's right foot.

But in his statements to the police, he confessed to having attacked the child as he was tired from his 24-hour work shift and was infuriated when his nap was interrupted.

That evening, the child's grandmother found redness on the boy's foot. When questioned by her and her relatives, the accused claimed he did not know what had caused the blisters on the foot.

The child was examined and found to have a bruise on his palm and multiple second-degree burns on his right foot.

Pleading for a fine or a day's imprisonment, defence counsel Noor Mohamed Marican said his client, a first-time offender, is still taking care of the child, whose family has forgiven him.

He said the two shared a close bond. The accused would take it upon himself to babysit him whenever the child's grandmother, uncle and aunt were not around.

In passing sentence, District Judge Eddy Tham agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew that the accused had lashed out at the victim because he was frustrated - not because he wanted to discipline the child.

A fine would be normally sufficient punishment, the judge said, if the accused had stopped at hitting the boy on the palm.

But he did not.

Said Judge Tham: "The use of a heated iron, while set to low heat, was clearly a more considered and premeditated act. It is clearly a cruel and unacceptable way by any standard to inflict punishment on a child."

The photographs of the injury showed that painful and serious harm had been caused.

"While I understand that the accused was merely doing a favour when no one else was in a position to help look after the child, and that he was tired and lacking in sleep, the cruel act of hurting a young child with an iron cannot be condoned. A custodial sentence is clearly called for," he added.

The accused could have been fined up to $4,000 and/or jailed for up to four years for ill-treating the child.