Child abusers must face tougher penalties
Hong Kong parents who mistreat their children to such a degree their lives are in danger deserve stronger punishment than the 10 years’ jail the law currently allows
Nothing can be as heinous as parents abusing their own child to near death but still showing no remorse. The latest tragedy put before the city’s court was so “grotesquely shocking” that the judge lamented that even the maximum penalty – currently 10 years for child neglect – could not reflect the severity of the crime. A review of the relevant law is required.
The gravity of the case was reflected in the harsh criticisms from Mr Justice Kevin Zervos. Describing it as the worst child neglect case, he slammed 42-year-old Mandy Wong Wing-man as a very calculative, callous and cold-hearted mother who played favourites with her four children, isolating her youngest daughter with a cruelty that knew no bounds.
The horrific tale came to light three years ago when the seven-year-old, Suki, was carried to hospital in a state of cardiac arrest, her emaciated body weighing less than 15kg and riddled with injuries.
Suffering from irreversible brain damage, profound intellectual disability, severe malnutrition, and gangrenous wounds, Suki now lives on medical support and has a life expectancy of 20 years at the most.
Investigators spent months trying to find out who was responsible, as the parents fed them with lies in an attempt to mislead them.
The mother was jailed 15 years and three months – nine years and six months for child neglect, and the rest for perverting the course of justice. The father was jailed four years and six months for collaborating with his ex-wife to give false evidence. He could face a fresh inquiry on whether he too is liable for child neglect.
The punishment is believed to be the toughest yet for such a crime.
While the tragic outcome for Suki cannot be reverted, the penalties sent the right message that cruelty against children will not be condoned in our society. Parents who fail to provide sufficient care and protection for their children must be brought to justice.
As rightly observed by Zervos, formerly the director of public prosecution at the Department of Justice, even the maximum penalty of 10 years did not fit the seriousness of the crime.
We trust government officials and lawmakers will heed the call and consider stiffer punishment against child neglect.