Former Minds assistant training officer gets jail for assaulting mentally disabled man

SINGAPORE - An assistant training officer at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) punched one of its clients last year and the victim was later found with swollen cheeks.

Mohammad Zulkifli Muhaini, now 37 and is no longer working for the voluntary welfare organisation, pleaded guilty on Tuesday (May 4) to assaulting a vulnerable person and was sentenced to three weeks' jail.

The court heard that the 31-year-old victim is mentally disabled and is "unable to communicate".

He was in a classroom at the Minds' Jurong Training Development Centre in Boon Lay Way on Sept 9 last year when one of Zulkifli 's co-workers asked him to clip some towels.

The victim, however, was reluctant to perform the task and instead waited for Zulkifli outside a place called a "calming room". He saw Zulkifli later that day and began gesturing at him.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Ying Min said: "The victim subsequently became agitated and pushed the accused once in his chest. The accused then held the victim's... hands to restrain him."

The victim struggled to break free but was unable to do so. Zulkifli then pushed him once, causing him to hit a wall.

After that, the Singaporean dragged the victim towards the calming room and punched the latter's face once when he struggled, causing him to fall to the floor.

The DPP told the court: "After pulling the victim up from the floor, the accused used his right hand to again punch the victim once on his face. The accused eventually managed to (take) the victim into the calming room."

The court heard that a closed-circuit television camera in the classroom managed to capture the incident.

The victim's family members noticed that his left cheek was swollen when he returned home later that day and they initially thought that he might have injured himself.

The next day, his father realised that his right cheek was also swollen. He took his son to a doctor on Sept 11 last year.

The victim's sister informed Minds about her brother's injuries on Sept 12 and it then conducted internal investigations.

In a statement on Tuesday, Minds told The Straits Times that it made a police report following this incident.

Its spokesman said: "(The victim) received immediate support from our team at Minds and has been undergoing follow-up sessions with centre staff to ensure his continued well-being.

"All direct support staff have a duty of care to the clients entrusted to them. Minds does not tolerate aggressive conduct by its staff towards vulnerable persons."

Zulkifli's lawyer, Mr S. S. Dhillon, told the court in his mitigation plea that his client is remorseful and feels "total utter regret over his actions".

Mr Dhillon also said that Zulkifli had punched the victim after losing his temper, adding: "Zul is a person who is not prone to violence."

For assaulting a vulnerable person, an offender can be jailed for up to four years and fined up to $10,000.