A tutor who pulled the hair of an autistic pupil and pushed her to the floor because she was noisy received a suspended sentence in court yesterday.
Chui Yik-mei, 28, was sentenced to 14 days in jail suspended for two years in Tsuen Wan Court after she pleaded guilty to common assault on the eight-year-old girl.
Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung also fined her HK$5,000.
The incident happened when Chui was a tutor at a community centre run by the ELCHK Grace Lutheran Church at the Fung Yat Social Service Complex in Kwai Chung.
She was tutoring the girl on her homework on September 23 when she pulled the youngster's hair and pushed her to the floor for making strange noises.
A colleague of Chui who saw the incident reported the matter to their supervisor.
The girl was sent to hospital for a check-up, where her lips were found to be swollen from hitting the floor. At that point, the police were called in.
Chui's lawyer asked the court for clemency, saying she was remorseful and prepared to accept the consequences of her wrongdoing.
She was receiving treatment for stress-related psychological problems at Castle Peak Hospital in Tuen Mun, the court heard.
A spokesman for the community centre said Chui was dismissed immediately after the incident because the centre would tolerate no violence.
The incident did not seem to have had a lasting impact on the girl, he said, adding that autistic people sometimes made noises that others might not understand.
The magistrate, in passing the suspended jail term, took into account a report that found Chui unsuitable to be placed on probation.
A probation order is designed for rehabilitation and is a lighter sentence than a suspended jail term, says Stephen Hung Wan-shun, who chairs the Law Society's criminal law and procedure committee.
Suspended sentences are meant to have a deterrent effect. People whose sentences are suspended are not sent to jail unless they commit a second crime during the suspension period.
The number of children under 12 in the city diagnosed with autism by the Health Department last year, compared with 218 in 2000