Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ST (13-9-06)

ST (13-9-06)
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Email back up.

I'm glad that the judge pointed out that there is a link between violence towards animals and violence towards people in the future.

Having said that, I'm not sure whom this sentence helps - not the cats, because David Hooi will be out in a year and the chances of him abusing cats in the future is 'high' and certainly not David Hooi either, who has a mental disorder and needs treatment. I don't see how preventive detention would have helped either even if it could be ordered - what it says is that we as a society don't know what to do with this man, so let's just lock him up.

The psychiatrist's report was very enlightening and he or she recommended that David Hooi be kept in a secure environment - and I think the problem is that we're lacking in these facilities that will help people like David Hooi, or even people like the 'disabled' people mentioned on the front page of Today's Straits Times. I am not suggesting in any way of course that 'disabled' people will run out and commit criminal acts, but as one mother in that report said, one of her sons, Joel, has Aperger's Syndrome that may be miscontrued by members of the opposite sex as being over-friendly. One can see this becoming a problem should there be no one to restrain the child ,who has no idea that his behaviour may be inappropriate.

Another big difference is that the people in the main page article have parents to look after them - and even those parents are in despair should they pass away before their children. Who will look after them and help them should they get into trouble?

What we do need are more mental health professionals and people who are able to counsel and treat people like David Hooi and others in society who may need help (without being criminals). We need facilities and homes to perhaps help to house and allow them to live out their lives and hopefully taught how to live in society. David Hooi's prognosis is seen to be poor in light of his previous convictions - or perhaps his previous convictions could be seen in light of the fact that he didn't get treatment earlier?

Whatever it is, welfare groups would be more than willing to help - but we're NOT mental health professionals. This is not a situation where someone can be taught if you pet the nice kitty, that they'll learn to love it. This is a person whose problems are much more deep-seated than that. And we as a society need to look long and hard about helping people like David Hooi. Prison isn't going to help him (unless he gets counselling and treatment in prison and beyond) and it isn't going to help the cats either.

It also goes to show that someone must have noticed something earlier - if the people who though that his actions were just the hijinks of a child had brought this up, maybe he could have been helped earlier too. People must have known him growing up - he had a troubled upbringing according to newspaper reports, but neighbours, teachers, friends, must have noticed something was wrong. If someone had spoken up earlier, and he had been given treatment earlier, maybe the situation would not have gotten quite so bad.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Hooi may well have come from a disfunctional family. I am not a psychiatric expert, so I don't know if people with his condition are born that way or "socialised" into it by neglect and/or abuse.

If nothing else, this one-year sentence helps keep community cats safe for that duration. More importantly, I think it is the first time the court has ordered a maximum jail term for animal abuse. I think this is a move in the correct direction in judicial thinking. Hopefully, Parliament will relook the sentences available and include stronger rehabilitative measures, as well as stiffer penalties. Is it fair that David Hooi may well be a scape goat in this process? Probably not. But I don't think many people are losing sleep over it. Certainly this beats letting him off with another 2-month sentence. And if these are the only two options available as the law stands, then I think this is the lesser of two evils, as far as the community is concerned.

There are too many issues to discuss here and perhaps this is not the correct forum for it. For now, I think we should celebrate that the recent effort by welfare groups, cargivers and everyone who have tried so hard to get their voices heard on the plight of community cats seem to have made an impression on the authorities. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come.

13/9/06 11:11 AM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Well said! My sentiments exactly. Given the current situation, the sentence is onyl temporary relief. It's just a postponement of the inevitable of Hooi's third animal abuse crime.

That is the most disturbing part of this whole thing - that Singapore does not seem to know what to do.

13/9/06 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous that this is a step towards the right direction. It at least serves as a deterrent to "normal" people (I am referring to those who are not siao but abuse animals for the sake of abusing them). Imagine if David Hooi's sentence is only 2 months, what kind of message are we sending out to this group of people? We have to let them know that society will not tolerate this kind of bastardy behaviour, siao or not siao.

13/9/06 11:42 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous is right in that it shows that animal abuse is taken seriously. I'm also not saying that whatever his background is, he should be excused from what he did. However the idea of prison really is as a deterrent - both to the perpetrator and to others. If it is the latter, this may serve to discourage others. If it is the former, we have already seen that prison hasn't done much to deter David Hooi.

What does worry me is that in a year's time, if nothing is done in the interim, he's going to be out - and likely to be abusing cats again. Or worse. I do hope some form of counselling or therapy can be done now while he is IN prison at the very least.

13/9/06 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing is, though, that one can argue that all animal, child or spouse abusers are sick. Something is wrong in their heads that makes them do, again and again, what the rest of us would never do even once in our lives. The same argument applies to murderers and rapists.

So if everyone who is diagnosed with a mental condition should be given treatment instead of punishment, then most if not all people charged for crimes anywhere in the world would qualify for special consideration. IMH wld be full and our prisons empty.

13/9/06 2:16 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I think it boils down to what jail time is supposed to do - is it supposed to reform or punish, or a bit of both?

If the idea is to punish, then jail may be appropriate, but if it is to reform as well, and ensure that the person when released does not re-offend, then jail may not be the right outlet. Clearly jail did nothing to stop David Hooi from re-offending the last time. Are we saying the punishment wasn't enough, or was it just ineffective?

You're right in that many of these people may not be in prison if they are indeed suffering from a mental disorder - but maybe they shouldn't be. Maybe we SHOULD then be spending more time on rehabilitation then on building more prisons. The point is that for someone who has no conception of prison - it may not even be a punishment.

In a rescue case we handled a few years ago, I continued visiting the woman involved after for a few years. She kept going to prison. She was borderline schizophrenic. To her going to jail wasn't really a big deal - she would go in, and she couldn't keep track of time anyway, so it wasn't a big loss to her. She also didn't know WHY she was going to prison (she allowed illegal overstayers in her flat) and so she kept re-offending.

I do emphasise that this applies to people with mental disorders - and this is applied very strictly by the law here. The woman I mentioned in fact, while diagnosed by the psychiatrist to have mild schizophrenia, was not deemed to be incapable of understanding what she was doing and so was tried and jailed as a competent individual. In actual fact, I think the number of people who would be affected would not be very large at all - to convince the court that you have a mental defect is really not that easy.

13/9/06 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the US, they keep a public list of all child molesters. Maybe we should keep a public list of all animal abusers too (and when they get out).

13/9/06 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Aminah Bee said...

Pertaning "Anonymous" suggestion on having a list of offenders for the public - in the case of Old Airport Road serial cat killer Wong Geng Thong, a Malaysian, after his 2 months jail sentence over, he will be deported back to Malaysia. SPCA Malaysia should be notified of Wong convicted in Singapore for killing cats and especially residents in Wong neighbourhood, to take caution in the safety of their cats.

13/9/06 7:00 PM  

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