Hong Kong parents who abused daughter spared jail after girl tells court she wants to rebuild relationship with them
- Deputy magistrate places father, 35, and mother, 40, on 24 months’ probation but warns that it will be their last non-custodial sentence
An unemployed Hong Kong couple who deprived their eldest daughter of basic necessities to the point that the then 12-year-old developed suicidal tendencies were spared jail on Friday, after the court heard the child wanted to rebuild their relationship.
Her plea, along with reports from a psychologist and probation officers, prompted Deputy Magistrate Philip Chan Chee-fai to place the father, 35, and mother, 40, on 24 months’ probation.
During this period, the couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would have to receive psychological treatment, participate in programmes and groups as directed, and report back to court in six months, on May 9 next year.
Chan warned: “This will be the last time to impose a non-custodial sentence.”
Kwun Tong Court heard the unmarried couple had already lost custody of the child once, just a year after she was born in 2006 with a cleft lip.
The Social Welfare Department discovered the girl was physically punished by both parents and placed her in foster care in 2007.
A year after she was taken away, the woman gave birth to a second daughter, one who did not inherit the mother’s cleft lip.
The elder daughter was not reunited with her family until 2015.
Social workers, teachers, the principal and the school janitor soon discovered that the parents favoured their second child, as they would only sign her handbook and notices and prepare her textbooks.
A school social worker later discovered on November 2 last year that the girl had not bathed since September 26 in a bid to get her parents’ attention after she was reprimanded for stealing money from others.
She also wrote in her homework that she had been unfairly treated by her parents and had suicidal tendencies.
When the social worker further inquired why she had been inadequately dressed for the wintry weather on January 30 this year, the girl revealed she was not given a school coat, not allowed to take hot showers, and not provided with sufficient basic hygiene products like shampoo and a toothbrush – unlike her sister.
The social worker called police after the girl said her father had hit her on the head with a chopping board. The father later confirmed to police that he had assaulted his daughter with the chopping board four to five times.
Further interviews with the girl revealed she was not given breakfast, that she only had noodles for dinner and at times was not given money for lunch. Her parents also did not buy her a new pair of glasses when hers broke, and refused to pay for her health and dental checks.
The court learned the parents had punished the girl by making her stand on one leg overnight, while the family all went to bed.
The parents pleaded guilty in September to two counts of ill-treatment of a child by a person in charge of that child, with the father further admitting to one count of assault of a child by a person in charge of that child.
These offences are punishable by three years’ imprisonment before a magistrate.
The parents said in mitigation they committed the offence only because they did not know how to raise their children. They said they had since started attending church and that they wanted to become responsible parents because they were remorseful for what they had done.
A psychological report revealed both parents suffered poor self perception and emotional regulation.
Still, the experts concluded that non-custodial sentences were appropriate, since the girl had indicated she wanted very much to rebuild a relationship with her parents.