SINGAPORE — Perceiving his father to be too strict with him, and upset with the older man for accusing him of something he did not do, a 14-year-old boy stabbed him in the neck with a fruit knife.
The 49-year-old man later died from the wound, and his son, now aged 15, was given five years of detention on Monday (24 January) after pleading guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
He had originally been charged with murder but this was reduced after discussions between the prosecution and the boy’s lawyer, Shashi Nathan.
The accused cannot be named as his identity is protected under the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA). His family members cannot be named as well.
The prosecution had sought five to seven years’ detention. Under the CYPA, the court may sentence a young person convicted of a grave offence, such as culpable homicide, to be detained for a suitable period of time if no other method of dealing with the case is suitable.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Shin Hui told Justice Aedit Abdullah that the boy is currently being housed in the Singapore Boys’ Home, where he will further his studies and take his O-levels this year.
“Thereafter we have been informed that should he progress to next stage of his education, likely to be A- levels, the intention is that he will be transferred to prisons and there he would have access to facilities in prison school, including necessary academic support for him to take N-levels or A-levels,” said DPP Lim.
High functioning autism
The boy resided in a condominium apartment in Loyang with his younger brother and parents.
He had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a toddler and was enrolled in special education when in primary one, but was later transferred to a mainstream school after he was assessed to be high functioning.
He was also diagnosed with internet gaming disorder in 2018 and referred to an addiction centre over concerns about the amount of time he was spending on video games. He underwent counselling and had no conduct or disciplinary issues in school.
At home, the boy had a "largely cordial relationship" with his mother and younger brother, the court heard. However, he had a difficult relationship with his father, whom the boy felt to be controlling and strict. The father would limit the boy’s access to his mobile phone and video games and would give him regular housework such as laundry, and make him do his homework.
When the boy occasionally failed to comply with his instructions, his father would hit and swear at him, although he did not injure the boy.
Eventually, the boy formed thoughts of killing his father in June 2020, when the man banned him from playing his video games for a month. The boy did not tell anyone of these thoughts or act on them then.
Aggrieved that father blamed him for missing scoop
On 11 December 2020, the boy, his younger brother and father were at home as their mother had left for work. The man was doing laundry but could not find the scoop for the detergent.
He asked his elder son if he had hidden the scoop, but the boy denied doing so. The boy became angry at his father for questioning him.
He decided to act on the thought of killing his father in order to be “free”, said the prosecution. He took a kitchen knife and slipped it into his pants pocket but found that it was too big and difficult to hide. The boy then switched it for a shorter fruit knife with a 9.5cm blade and returned to his room.
A while later, the boy saw his younger brother and father doing laundry and heard his father saying that the boy had thrown away the scoop. Upon seeing him, the father again confronted the boy over the missing scoop, and the boy denied throwing it away.
While in his room, the boy mused over how his father was too strict and limited his video time.
Stabbed father while back was turned
At around 10.10am, the boy emerged from his room to see his father crouched at the laundry area. The man and his younger son had their backs to the accused.
The boy then took the fruit knife and stabbed his father once on the left side of his neck, intending to cause the man’s death. He then threw the knife into the sink and locked himself in his bedroom as his father screamed.
His father staggered and sat on a chair while his younger son called an ambulance and his mother.
A while later, the boy exited his room and apologised to his father. He helped his younger brother apply pressure to his father’s wound to stop the bleeding, but his father soon fell unconscious and collapsed.
The paramedics were unable to resuscitate the man, who was conveyed to Changi General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The boy was placed under arrest after he admitted to the police that he had stabbed his father.
The boy was assessed psychiatrically and found to have obsessive compulsive traits in addition to ASD. However, both were deemed to have no contributory or causal link to the offences.
He had sufficient maturity to have judged the nature and consequences of his actions, reports stated, adding that his risk of violent reoffending was low.
Family has been 'decimated'
Opening his mitigation, Nathan sought three to five years detention for the boy. He said the “extremely tragic case” has “decimated the family", including relatives, many of whom were in court.
He added that the family has experienced “one tragedy after another”, as the younger brother was so shocked that he stopped speaking, and the boys’ mother had to undergo cancer treatment. The younger boy has since recovered and shares a close bond with his brother, whom he visits weekly with his mother.
The lawyer added that he stopped accepting payment as the mother had depleted her savings.
“The last time I saw him in the Boys' Home, his last words to me was, ‘Uncle Shashi, I miss my papa’. That resounded,” said Shashi, who added that the boy had adjusted and responded well to his current surroundings.
His father obviously loved him, said Shashi, citing letters that the deceased man had wrote to his wife, stating that he regretted being overly strict. The boy will have to live with the guilt of losing his father for the rest of his life, no matter how well he does, he added.
“So in terms of remorse in terms of what he has done, it’s there. The psychiatrists have said he is unlikely to commit an offence like this again, this really was a one-off.”
“What we ask is to have (the boy) be given a chance. He will do well in O-levels, he will do well in A-levels. There is every chance this young man will go on to have tertiary education and contribute to society,” he said.
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