Mum's jail term increased for fatal abuse of son, 4

Noraidah Mohd Yussof, 35,  had her original jail term of eight years increased to 14-1/2 yesterday after the prosecution appealed.
Noraidah Mohd Yussof, 35, had her original jail term of eight years increased to 14-1/2 yesterday after the prosecution appealed. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

8-year sentence raised to 14.5 on appeal; boy died of fractured skull, bleeding in brain

A woman who assaulted her four-year-old son so violently that he died had her original jail term of eight years increased to 14-1/2 yesterday after the prosecution appealed.

Noraidah Mohd Yussof, 35, had pushed her son repeatedly, resulting in the boy hitting his head on the floor. She also stepped on him, and grabbed him by the neck and lifted him while pushing him against a wall.

She was taking her frustration out on her son because he could not recite the numbers 11 to 18 in Malay correctly.

The boy died from a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain.

Last year, Noraidah was sentenced by the High Court to eight years in jail after she pleaded guilty to two counts each of causing grievous hurt and ill-treating a child. Two other counts of ill-treatment were considered during sentencing.

The prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal for a heavier sentence of at least 12 years in jail.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kow Keng Siong argued that the lower court was wrong to accept Noraidah's "personality aberrations" as mitigating factors. These included a very low tolerance for frustration and a tendency to act impulsively.

Mr Kow argued that personality aberrations did not amount to a recognisable mental disorder. If people are entitled to lenient sentences because of their impulsive or aggressive nature, it was tantamount to giving them an excuse to give in to their emotions and act out their frustrations without self- restraint, he said.

The DPP argued that deterrence was a relevant sentencing factor. He cited statistics showing a rise in child abuse cases. Last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development investigated 873 child abuse cases, compared to 551 in 2015.

Noraidah's lawyer, Ms Diana Ngiam, argued that the lower court was correct to consider her personality aberrations together with her inability to cope and bond with her son.

The apex court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong, agreed with the prosecutor's arguments that Noraidah should get a longer jail term. A detailed judgment will be released at a later date.

The Chief Justice said the gravity of the case was aggravated by the extreme youth of the boy and that Noraidah had a duty to protect her child, but her pattern of conduct as a whole pointed to cruelty towards the defenceless boy.

Noraidah started abusing the boy in 2012, when he was two. She pushed him and stepped on his ribs when he fell. She also twisted his hand when he scribbled on a sofa. She later took him to hospital, where he was found with fractures to an elbow, calf and four ribs, as well as multiple bruises.

In July 2012, the Child Protection Service (CPS) placed the boy in the care of her brother and sister-in- law. Four months later, Noraidah and her older daughter moved in with them. CPS closed the case in February 2014 after finding no further report of abuse. Not long after, Noraidah moved out with both children.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'Mum's jail term increased for fatal abuse of son, 4'. Print Edition | Subscribe