Judge slaps restraining order on man for abuse towards vulnerable mum

Abuser insisted that maid apply cooking oil to elderly woman's body, locked them in house

A man, who was living with his mother with dementia, has been ordered to stay away from the house by a judge who found the way he treated her abusive and dangerous.

He had, among other things, insisted that the maid tending to her apply fish oil and cooking oil to prevent bed sores instead of the prescribed medical cream.

He also locked his elderly mother and the maid indoors when he left the house, sometimes staying out overnight.

"In the light of the abuse that has occurred and the extent to which the risk remained, I had no difficulty in finding this (restraining) order to be necessary," said District Judge Lim Keng Yeow in decision grounds issued last week, with all names redacted.

This is the first contested case, under the 20-month-old Vulnerable Adults Act, that is dealt with by the Family Justice Courts, noted the judge. It was brought to court by the man's younger brother, who was applying for restraining and exclusion orders, which the man vigorously contested in person last November.

The Act, which took effect in December 2018, is to safeguard vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect or self-neglect.

The court heard that the mother is older than 90, chair-and bed-bound since 2014, and relied on caregivers for her daily needs. She also suffered from many physical ailments.

Given her mental state, she is unable to protect herself from any abuse or neglect, according to court documents.

Also, the man has a strife-ridden relationship with his brother, who would not step into the house if he was in.

The brother said the man insisted the maid apply fish oil, cooking oil and sesame oil on their mother's buttocks to guard against bedsores or rashes. When the maid tried to use the prescribed cream, he locked it away and demanded she do as told.

As a result, the elderly woman suffered physically and on May 20 last year, her younger son took her to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where she was warded.

In defending his actions, the man claimed his methods were more effective than the prescribed cream.

The judge found the man to be in a position of dominance and control, was very fixed in his views and apt to be aggressive in maintaining them.
​"This meant that even if the applicant or any other family member tried to, they would hardly be able to put a check on his methods, or even be free to express to him a different view concerning the (mother's) care," District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said.

District Judge Lim called his actions "bizarre" and rejected his evidence that medical professionals approved his methods, so much so that they sanctioned their use in place of the prescribed medication.

The judge, noting that he did not dispute his brother's allegations about locking in their mother and the maid, said the confinement was not a one-off occurrence.

He added that it was "anything but brief", giving rise to concerns should a fire break out.

Photographs were also shown in court of the mother's hands being tied to her bed.

The judge found the man to be in a position of dominance and control, was very fixed in his views and apt to be aggressive in maintaining them.

"This meant that even if the applicant or any other family member tried to, they would hardly be able to put a check on his methods, or even be free to express to him a different view concerning the (mother's) care.

"This was obvious from how (he) conducted himself in court," District Judge Lim said, adding: "He had difficulty abiding by basic aspects of trial procedure and repeatedly remonstrated over what was not to his liking."

 
 
 

The order requiring him to stay away from the house took effect on Dec 9 last year.

While this exclusion order causes "obvious inconvenience and even some hardship to a respondent who has been residing at the same place as the vulnerable adult, the (Act) does not explicitly require the court to consider this or prescribe for the impact on the respondent to be weighed", District Judge Lim said.

The critical consideration under the law is whether the order is necessary for the protection and safety of the vulnerable adult, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'Judge slaps restraining order on man for abuse towards vulnerable mum'. Print Edition | Subscribe