Judge: Actions a breach of trust and authority

He had ill-treated eight children under his care at the Pertapis Children's Home in Kovan Road.

Religious teacher Muhammad Abdul Gani, 27, was sentenced yesterday to three weeks' jail after previously pleading guilty to four of 10 charges of ill-treating the children, aged four to 11.

The other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Last month, the prosecution asked for a global sentence of four weeks' jail for his ill-treatment of the five boys and three girls between 2012 and January last year.

But District Judge Christopher Goh said yesterday that he was "not convinced" by all of the aggravating factors cited by the prosecution.

One of them was that Muhammad had deliberately breached the home's instructions regarding the meting out of corporal punishment.

Mr Goh said: "In my view, this was neither here nor there. Any institution worth its salt would have such restrictions as to how corporal punishment should be inflicted.

"The more pertinent issue was how closely the institution monitored whether its instructions were being adhered to."

The incidents came to light when an ex-employee of the home told the Child Protection Services (CPS) of the Ministry of Social and Family Development that certain employees had meted out inappropriate punishments to children during religious and sports activities.

Muhammad was among the five employees named. A CPS manager then made a police report on Feb 10 last year.

Investigations revealed Muhammad had ill-treated three children in the home's prayer room.

On two occasions, he lifted two boys - a seven-year-old and a four-year-old - by grabbing their heads.


He punished one of them for not lining up properly and the other for no apparent reason.

In another incident, Muhammad pushed a 10-year-old girl in the mouth when she ignored his instruction to stop whistling in the prayer room.

This caused the back of her head to hit a cupboard.

Muhammad's lawyer, Mr Abdul Jalil Muhammad Tahir of AJ Tahir & Co, had recommended a fine, citing medical and psychiatric reports that showed the victims had not suffered adverse physical and psychological effects.

He said his client was not "the kind to abuse children".

While Judge Goh did not believe there was malice on Muhammad's part, he agreed with the prosecution that Muhammad's actions were a gross breach of trust and authority.

"What made these a more serious case... was that these were vulnerable children, sent to the home specifically because they were vulnerable and at risk," he said.

During the period of the offences, about 60 children - generally from dysfunctional families, abused or neglected, or beyond parental control - were living in the home.

The judge acknowledged that caring for disadvantaged children is not easy as a huge burden and responsibility is placed on caregivers.

"Nonetheless, the paramount interest must be the welfare of the children... Therefore, where incidents such as these do occur, the persons involved must be brought to task and, if found guilty, punished severely," he said.

Another employee, Joanne Joy Coloma Dadiz, a 29-year-old Filipina, was charged with one count of ill-treating an 11-year-old girl in December 2013. Her case is pending.

This article was first published on October 14, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.