ZZ (a minor) v Public Prosecutor

CourtJuvenile Court (Singapore)
JudgeWong Li Tein
Judgment Date21 April 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGJC 2
Citation[2009] SGJC 2
Publication Date01 June 2009
Plaintiff CounselINSP Ting Nge Kong
Defendant CounselThe juvenile in person

21 April 2009

District Judge Wong Li Tein:

1 On 2 March 2009, ZZ, a male Chinese juvenile aged 14 years and 5 months (“the Juvenile”), pleaded guilty to the following charge:

Charge

You, ZZ, M/14 yrs, DOB: 23.10.1994, are charged that you on or about the 27th day of December 2008, in Singapore, did for the purpose of inducing in yourself a state of intoxication, inhale an intoxicating substance containing toluene and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 3(1) and punishable under Section 39 of the Intoxicating Substances Act, Chapter 146A.

2 The Juvenile admitted to the Statement of Facts without qualification. The salient points are as follows:

(a) On 27 December 2008 at around 4.35am, the police responded to a message that someone was glue-sniffing in the Juvenile’s home. Upon arrival, the police found the Juvenile inside his bedroom smelling heavily of glue. The person who called the police was the Juvenile’s father.

(b) The Juvenile admitted that he had thrown a plastic bag of glue out of the bedroom window. The bag was found at the foot of his block of flats by the police on the same morning.

(c) The Juvenile’s blood sample was taken and was tested positive for 2.0 microgramme of toluene per milliliter of blood.

3 I found the Juvenile guilty of the charge for which he faced. In mitigation, he admitted that he was glue-sniffing at home with four friends. His father (“the Father”) appealed for the Juvenile to be given a chance to continue his studies and said that he would ensure that the Juvenile stopped glue-sniffing. His mother (“the Mother”) was not present in Court.

Probation Report

4 Ms Amelia Wong, a probation officer (“the Probation Officer”) from Probation Services Branch, MCYS, submitted a Probation Report to the Court highlighting the background of the Juvenile and risk factors. The probation officer assessed the Juvenile to be unsuitable for probation, after interviewing the Juvenile, his parents and school authorities, a report from a consultant psychiatrist from Gleneagles Medical Centre to his school counselor, and correspondences with the police.

Family Background

5 The Juvenile comes from an intact family with three children. The Father is 41 years of age and a part-time electrician earning $1000.00 monthly. The Mother is a 41-year-old clerk earning a monthly income of $1300.00. The Juvenile has an older sister aged 17 who is in junior college and a younger brother who is in secondary one. The Juvenile has slight hearing impairment since young.

6 According to the Probation Report, the Father is the main disciplinarian at home. However, he is a lax parent who has little control over the Juvenile because of their strained father-son relationship and his own drinking habit. He drank regularly and would be verbally abusive when drunk. He distrusted the Juvenile and was disrespectful towards the Juvenile’s friends. The Mother also shared a poor relationship with the Juvenile because she did not trust him. In addition, the marital relationship was also poor because of the Father’s drinking habit and she resented the strain of bearing the full responsibility in caring for the children.

7 The Juvenile admitted that he disliked his parents for not trusting him and for frequently comparing him to other well-behaved children. He felt embarrassed that his parents wanted to know who his friends are and would call them to locate him, and even scold him in front of them. He was also resentful towards the Father for treating his friends with disrespect whenever he got drunk.

8 The family is financially unstable due to the ad-hoc nature of the Father’s work and the fact that the Mother just started on a new job and is serving a probation period. However, in spite of that the Juvenile receives an allowance of $10.00 daily, and an additional $10.00 to $20.00 on weekends.

School Conduct

9 The Juvenile is currently a Secondary 3 (Normal Technical) student.

10 According to his primary school report, the Juvenile displayed poor anger management skills and was disrespectful towards teachers. He was caned once in Primary 6 as he was defiant to a male teacher.

11 In secondary school, although noted to be a bright student, the Juvenile’s conduct was rated as “poor” since 2008. He was mischievous and disruptive in class and had grooming issues, such as being inappropriately attired and wearing a tongue stud against school rules. He was also noted to have bullied and assaulted his schoolmates. His attendance was bad in 2008 as he attended only 159 out of 191 days of school. In 2009, he was absent from school for five days without valid reasons. He was also irregular in his CCA, namely the school choir.

12 The Juvenile was noted to be rude to his teachers as he often spoke up for his friends. He would challenge school authority by being insulting and abusive. In March 2008 it was recorded that he spat at a teacher, pointed at him with the middle finger and hurled vulgarities at him. In August 2008, he sexually harassed a female teacher verbally. In September 2008 he used sexual innuendos on a female classmate and in October 2008, he told his teacher to keep quiet when reprimanded. In February 2009 he was caned twice by the school principal for defiance towards his teachers. The Juvenile also showed disregard for the school counselor as he intruded into a counseling session in the same month.

13 The Disciplinary Master of his secondary school informed the Probation Officer that the school has been trying to help the Juvenile. However, this proved to be an uphill task as the Juvenile rejected the school’s efforts. In addition, the parents are unresponsive to the school’s intervention and were uncooperative and would not take preventive or disciplinary actions to address the Juvenile’s misbehaviours even when it was required. This made his misbehaviours in school even worse. As a result, the Juvenile was referred to the school counselor for assistance.

School Counselor’s Efforts and Juvenile’s Psychiatric Report

14 The school counselor, whom the Juvenile has been seeing since 2007, shared that the Juvenile was resistant to counseling since 2008 and that his parents did not cooperate with the school. She had advised him against sneaking out at night without his parents’ knowledge and warned him about the consequences of standing up for his friend to the point of being defiant to teachers in 2007. In 2008, he started to avoided counseling sessions with her and refused to accept her advice.

15 As a result, the school counselor referred the Juvenile to the Child Guidance Clinic (“CGC”) at the Institute of Mental Health (“IMH”) for assessment. On 1 September 2008, the Juvenile was diagnosed by CGC Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Geraldine Goh, to have Conduct Disorder with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (“ODD”).

16 The report by Dr Goh was not a positive one. She highlighted in her report to the school counselor that not only was the Juvenile resistant to intervention and help, his parents were similarly ambivalent and indecisive about what to do with him. According to Dr Goh’s report:

“[The Juvenile] himself admits that he has problems with anger at times but has made it clear that he saw no point in putting any effort in working with anyone or to take medication, eg. fluoxetine, that might help him control it better. He has started that had he not given his word to his father, he would not have attended the clinic even. He does not want to come back here or accept any help from anywhere else either. He was rather flippant and not being able to attend school appeared not to bother him much.

His parents reported feeling that they are being forced to take action by the school when his behaviour is not a problem at home. His mother does admit that if he does not get what he wants, [he] would throw a tantrum and walk out. She is unable to manage him; however, his father occasionally does get some results with cajoling, negotiating or beating...

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