BHR v Child Protector

CourtJuvenile Court (Singapore)
JudgeEdgar Foo
Judgment Date17 May 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] SGJC 2
Citation[2013] SGJC 2
Published date14 January 2016
Docket NumberMA No 086/2013/01
Hearing Date17 May 2013
Plaintiff CounselMr Mohamad Zaki Bin Junahri, State Counsel
District Judge Edgar Foo: Introduction

This is an application made by the Child Protection Services (“CPS”), Family and Child Protection and Welfare Branch, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore (“MSF”) pursuant to Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap 38) (“the Act”) seeking care and protection orders for one B, male, born on XXX (“the child”) against his natural mother, BHR (“the mother”).

I heard the application over 2 afternoons on 24 and 25 April 2013 and I made the following orders on 25 April 2013:- That the child be committed to a place of safety, namely the XXX (“XXX”) for a period of 7 months under Section 49(1)(c) of the Act; That the mother and Mr C (“the father”) to enter into a bond of $2000 each to exercise proper care and guardianship of the child under Section 49(1)(a) of the Act; That the parents, the maternal grandparents and/or any other significant person(s) to have regular access (supervised or otherwise) with the child during the period of the order, subjected to the review by the Approved Welfare Officer (“AWO”) and in accordance to the rules and regulations of XXX; That the mother to refrain from visiting the child at his school, XXX and the surrounding vicinity for the period of the order; That the mother and the child to be mandated to undergo any psychological and psychiatric assessment/treatment and/or counselling programme as deemed necessary by the AWO under Section 51(1) of the Act; That the mother to enter into a bond of $2000 to comply with the aforesaid order under Section 51(2) of the Act; and That the AWO is to keep the mother informed of the child’s progress in school.

The mother being dissatisfied has appealed against my decision.

Background

The child was first referred to the CPS on 6 August 2012 for investigation due to concerns of alleged physical abuse by the mother. The father and the mother were divorced in 2000 and the mother was awarded sole custody, care and control to the mother with reasonable access to the father. The father reported that he last saw the child when the child was 6 years old and subsequently he was denied access to the child. The mother’s version is that the father had abandoned her and the child shortly after the child was born and that she had obtained a Personal Protection Order against him for family violencei. But whatever the version, it is clear that father and the mother had a very acrimonious relationship. The mother had filed numerous applications to the Family Court for Expedited Orders against the father and his mother for family violence and the mother had also lodged 22 police reports against the father and his mother from May to August 2000 for suspected child abuse. According to a report dated 16 May 2000 prepared by Mr F, a Medical Social Worker from XXX, the parents’ relationship was assessed to be acrimonious, very conflictual and they hurled allegations at each other in XXX in order to cast doubts over their characters and the credibility of care towards the child. It is also clear that the father is no longer involved in the parenting of the childii.

On 5 August 2012, the child presented himself at XXX (“XXX”) with visible “cane-like’ marks and he alleged that the mother had used a cane to hit him. The child also alleged that the mother had used a pole used to hang laundry to hit him and she had also punched him several times on his back. The child had further alleged that the mother had taken a chopper and had threatened to kill him and jump down thereafter. The child was adamant that he did not want to return home. In view of the allegations and the injuries, the child was admitted to XXX (“XXX”) on 5 August 2012 pending further investigationiii.

The child also reported that he had been subject to harsh punishment by the mother since he was in lower primary and he could not bear with the mother’s beating and he had attempted suicide several times because of the mother’s harsh treatment and he had swallowed 5 to 6 tablets of flu medications on 5 to 6 occasions since 2011 as he felt helpless to the mother’s beatings and scolding. The child also reported that he had self-harmed using a pair of scissors when he was in Primary 3 after the mother had scolded himiv.

When CPS spoke to the mother on the allegations raised by the child, the mother denied inflicting the injuries on the child. The mother informed the CPS that the child had self-inflicted his injuriesv and she refused to give consent for the child to be placed in alternative placementvi.

In view of the above, CPS decided to filed this application and I called for a Social Report and passed the following interim orders on 17 August 2012:- That the child be committed to a place of temporary care and protection, namely XXX, for a period of 1 month under Section 49(1)(c) of the Act; That the mother to enter into a bond of $2000 to exercise proper care and guardianship of the child under Section 49(1)(a) of the Act; That the mother, the maternal grandparents and any significant others’ contacts with the child be subject to the approval and review of the AWO under Section 49(2) of the Act; That the mother, the maternal grandparents and any significant others to provide information to CPS for the purpose of investigation under Section 49(2) of the Act; That the mother and the child to be mandated to undergo any medical and psychiatric assessments/treatments and/or counselling programme as deemed necessary by the AWO under Section 51(1) of the Act; and That the mother to enter into a bond of $2000 to comply with the aforesaid order under Section 51(2) of the Act;

On the 14 September 2012, the parties appeared before DJ Lim Keng Yeow and DJ Lim Keng Yeow extended my interim orders and also ordered that “the mother to refrain from visiting the child at his school, XXX and surrounding vicinity”vii. The interim orders were extended at subsequent pre-trial conferences.

Despite the interim orders, the mother, to date, has refused to sign the bonds for proper care and guardianship of the child and for the mandatory counselling. Although the mother had attended one session with the psychologist, she has refused to attend any form of counselling arranged by the CPSviii.

The Child Protector’s case

CPS’s case against the mother is based on 2 grounds. Firstly, CPS is saying that the child is need of care and protection under Section 4(d)(i) of the Act because the child has been, is being or is at risk of being ill-treated by his mother. Secondly, CPS is saying that the child is need of care and protection under Section 4(g) of the Act because there exist serious and persistent conflicts between the mother and the child whereby their family relationship is seriously disrupted thereby causing the child emotional injury.

CPS is relying of the followingix in support of their case against the mother :- The Complaint filed by the Child Protection Officer, Ms H dated 17 August 2012; The 1st affidavit of Ms H which also contained:- The Social Report dated 8 September 2012; XXX’s Progress Report dated 30 August 2012; The Preliminary E-mail Report by Senior Clinical Psychologist Ms L dated 10 September 2012; Interim Medical Report by Dr R dated 6 August 2012; School Report by the Form Teacher Ms Z dated 15 August 2012 ; and The Form Teacher’s email update dated 4 September 2012; The 2nd affidavit of Ms H which also contained:- The Addendum to the Social Report dated 21 February 2013; XXX’s further Progress Report dated 6 February 2013; School Report by Form Teacher dated 7 January 2013; Psychological Report by Senior Clinical Psychologist Ms L dated 28 September 2012; Incident Report from XXX dated 25 September 2012; The 3rd affidavit of Ms H which also contained:- Letters sent by State Counsel Mr Mohamad Zaki Bin Junahri to the Family Court dated 19 March 2013 and 28 March 2013; Supplemental Report by Ms H dated 15 April 2013; Written statement signed by the child dated 12 March 2013; Letter written by the child to CPS dated 12 March 2013; File note prepared by Ms N on telephone conversation with the child on 27 March 2013; Medical report by Dr K dated 21 September 2012.

The Child Protector’s case under Section 4(d)(i) of the Act

CPS is arguing that the child has been ill-treated by the mother under section 4(d)(i) of the Act.

CPS has submitted that under section 4(d) of the Act, actual ill-treatment need not be shown and it suffices to show that the child is “at risk of being ill-treated”x.

The term “ill-treatment” is defined in section 5(2) of the Act as encompassing any wilful act “which endangers or is likely to endanger the safety of the child... which causes or is likely to cause any unnecessary physical pain, suffering or injury; any emotional injury; or injury to his health or development” (emphasis mine).

Unnecessary physical pain, suffering or injury

CPS has submitted that the facts and circumstances of this case clearly point to the fact that the child has been and/or is at risk of being caused “unnecessary physical pain, suffering or injury” by the mother’s wilful or unreasonable acts :- According to the child,xi He has been subject to harsh physical punishment by the mother since he was in lower primary. The mother would beat him on his limbs repeatedly using either a cane or a pole used to hang laundry, slap him on his face, punch his back, neck and head and scold him with vulgarities. During his court interview, the child has added that the mother has been scolding him and caning him since he was in Primary 1. The mother would beat him when the mother was not feeling well or for trivial reasons such as the child not doing household chores properly or being unable to hear the mother clearly. The mother would beat the child several times a week when she was unemployed as she would be too tired to beat him when she was...

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