Anger at baby killers' jail term

Top News | Carine Chow 18 Nov 2021

A couple who chained their friend's baby daughter like a dog and beat her with a rattan stick until it broke before her death have both been sentenced to five years and four months in jail.

Housewife Or Ching-man, 36, and construction worker Shiu Kwok-wai, 33, earlier pleaded guilty to willful assault, ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of a child, an offense punishable by 10 years in prison.

High court judge Albert Wong Sung-hau said the case was serious, involving severe abuse and negligence of baby Heiley, who was 22 months old when she died.

Handing down the sentences yesterday, Wong first criticized the baby's birth mother for being irresponsible and failing to protect her daughter, as she left her with her friends to look after without offering any financial assistance or even monitoring her well-being.

He said the baby was in good health when she was entrusted to the couple, but her condition soon took a turn for the worse following physical and mental abuse.

She was malnourished - weighing just eight kilograms - and was believed to have been severely abused the day before her death on June 20, 2019.

Wong said the evidence clearly showed that the couple had inflicted severe injuries on the toddler. He also said even if the abusive behavior was carried out by only one of them, the other one had turned a blind eye and did not stop the abuse.

Or and Shiu were both sentenced to five years and four months in jail, after taking consideration of their guilty plea from the initial sentencing of eight years.

The court has heard Heiley died of unexplained head injuries while in the couple's care in June 2019.

The girl was found with 70 bruises, abrasions and scars over her malnourished body.

In mitigation last month, the defence said Or was acting on "misguided compassion," not wanting her friend's child to end up in foster care, and thus offered to look after Heiley without receiving any reimbursement.

Three of the couple's own children are being cared for by foster families, while the remaining one was sent to a children's home by the Social Welfare Department due to a kidney problem.

"I wish I could go back in time and avoid this tragedy," Shiu wrote to the court.

"I hope Heiley can forgive me."

Against Child Abuse director Donna Wong Chui-ling said the sentence of slightly over five years lacked a deterrent effect. She hoped the government would adopt the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong's proposal made in September.

The commission earlier proposed introducing a new offense that would impose criminal liability on bystanders, including family members living together with the victim and having frequent contact with the victim, .

The proposed offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment in cases where the victim dies and 15 years' imprisonment where the victim suffers serious harm.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, a member of the Commission on Children, suggested Hong Kong roll out a children protection law like overseas, and follow the more than 60 countries and regions that have legislated a ban on corporal punishment, which is also applicable to families of the child.

Baby Heiley's case bears a striking resemblance to the shocking abuse of a five-year-old girl, who died of sepsis in 2018 following months of cruelty.

The child's parents were found guilty of murder and were sentenced to life imprisonment this April.

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