Reformative training for teen with low IQ? Court to decide

A High Court hearing was held yesterday to determine if a mildly intellectually disabled teenage boy, who committed rape when he was 14 years old, is suitable to be sentenced to reformative training.

The teen had pleaded guilty in February to raping and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, a total stranger, in 2014 while he was on bail for a spate of other offences.

Prosecutors are seeking 15 to 18 years' jail and at least 15 strokes of the cane for the boy, who is now 16.

However, his assigned lawyers argue that he should be sent for reformative training, a structured regime for offenders aged below 21. A stint can last between 18 months and three years.

The hearing is being held to determine whether the boy is suitable to undergo reformative training, his risk of reoffending and his prospect of rehabilitation.

The prosecution has six witnesses, including psychiatrists, psychologists and corrections officers.

Yesterday, prison pychiatrist Rajesh Jacob testified that the boy, with a full-scale IQ of 61, was not suitable for reformative training as he lacks the cognitive abilities to understand the programmes.

Dr Jacob, who had seen the boy three times, noted that he had failed his PSLE twice and his score was the lowest in the country.

Reformative training, which involves group sessions, lectures, homework and counselling, requires a certain level of cognitive functioning, said the senior consultant. Participants have to be able to understand and retain information on the triggers and consequences of offending and to work on ways to reduce offending, he said.

"If he doesn't have the capacity to understand the intervention, he will not benefit from it, through no fault of his," said Dr Jacob. The hearing continues on Monday.

On Nov 21, 2014, the boy spotted the victim and followed her back to her block. He got in the lift with her and got out at her stop, assaulting her at the lift lobby just three doors away from her flat.

Selina Lum

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Reformative training for teen with low IQ? Court to decide'. Print Edition | Subscribe