Five weeks after his baby had been discharged from hospital where she was treated for a broken skull after he accidentally dropped her, Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali negligently caused her death when she apparently choked on her milk while he was feeding her and playing a game on his mobile phone.
Shiddiq, 28, was sentenced on Nov 20 to six months’ jail for causing his daughter’s death. He was given a concurrent sentence of three months’ jail for causing grievous hurt to the child by doing a negligent act to endanger her personal safety.
District Judge Carol Ling backdated his sentence to Oct 17.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Stephanie Koh said Shiddiq had displayed a high degree of negligence in causing the death of his 3½-month-old daughter on Oct 12, 2015.
She said he clearly prioritised his mobile phone game over the welfare of the baby. He had been playing the game before his girlfriend at the time, Ms Nurraishah Mahzan, 32, the child’s mother, left home and entrusted the care of the baby to him.
Placing the child on his lap, Shiddiq used one hand to hold the milk bottle to her mouth and the other hand to play the game.
“While this in itself falls short of the appropriate level of care, it is further aggravated by the fact that the accused was not even looking at the deceased as he fed her. He was looking at his phone, on the left side of the bed, while he held the deceased on his right side,” she said.
Even more alarmingly, DPP Koh said, Shiddiq showed blatant indifference to all the child’s signs of distress. When he began feeding her, she was fidgeting and rejecting the bottle. Yet he continued to hold the bottle to her mouth, which was akin to force-feeding her.
The baby thrashed about for some two minutes before she apparently choked on the milk.
Although the cause of death could not be ascertained, a forensic pathologist said that leaving the milk bottle in the baby’s mouth might have resulted in the blocking of her upper airway, and introduced an element of “mechanical asphyxia’’, possibly culminating in her death, which was entirely avoidable.
DPP Koh said: “The accused showed a general irresponsible and lax attitude towards his caregiving duties.”
That was not all.
On Aug 26 the same year, Shiddiq negligently dropped the baby on her head. He had failed to support her head as he bent down to pick up a pacifier at a void deck of an HDB block in Buangkok Crescent. The baby fell backwards and hit her head on the ground, and suffered a broken skull.
The court heard that he did not know what to do as the baby was crying non-stop. When he handed the baby to her mother, he lied to Ms Nurraishah that he did not know what happened as he was afraid she would scold him.
DPP Koh said Shiddiq had breached a “discharge plan” prepared by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. The plan included a condition that the baby had to be supervised and accompanied by at least two adults, unless a babysitter was present.
The maximum penalty for causing death by negligence is two years’ jail and a fine. For causing grievous hurt, he could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000.
He had been sentenced to reformative training in 2008 for insulting of modesty and rioting.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times
(Photo: The Straits Times)