Woman found guilty of child neglect after feeding baby diluted formula
A woman has been found guilty of child neglect for feeding her baby diluted formula, leaving the boy’s appearance at death “worse than the starving children in Africa”, the judge said.
So Suk-yee, 32, was convicted following trial in District Court on Monday morning, after pleading not guilty to one count of ill-treatment or neglect of a child.
So, who lives on welfare, gave birth to the baby on February 8 last year. The newborn boy weighed 2.85kg, and he gained only 160 grams by the time he died three months later, on May 5, in Kwai Chung Hospital.
At death he weighed half of what a normal baby of that age should weigh. The baby had no birth certificate and was not named in court.
The court heard that So fed the baby diluted formula, and that he had lost nearly all his subcutaneous fat by the time he died.
“I find the photographs of the deceased shocking,” Deputy District Judge Pang Chung-ping said as he handed down the verdict. “The thinness of the deceased is worse than the starving children in Africa and the Third World.”
The judge said the baby could not have developed such an appearance in a day, but only gradually, meaning So should have realised much earlier that he was getting too little nutrition.
“I find that the defendant knowingly gave the deceased an insufficient amount of food over an extended period of time, leading to the deceased being malnourished for a long time. This led to the deceased requiring medical attention,” the judge said.
The mother had “intentionally neglected” the baby, he said.
The defendant has two children, aged 10 and 12, with her former boyfriend, and a four-year-old daughter with her husband, from whom she is separated. Her fourth child, a boy aged two, and the victim were the children of her current boyfriend.
Two of the children are now living at a Po Leung Kuk children’s home while two others are in the custody of relatives.
So was remanded in custody pending her sentencing hearing on October 29.
During the trial, a psychologist told the court that So’s intelligence quotient was a little below the median average, but that she was able to cope with daily life and was not mentally handicapped.
The judge noted that So had attained Form Three education and previously worked in a restaurant. She was able to follow the instructions on the formula container, and apparently knew there were different ways to prepare different kinds of formula.
The only reasonable conclusion, he said, was that So knew she was not giving the baby enough powder in the formula mix.