A 14-year-old girl in Singapore was sent to a girls’ home for committing a slew of offences, including theft, cheating others of money and gang violence.
The final straw was when her mother found 50 canisters of butane gas in her room while she was on bail.
However, a judgment on Thursday (Apr. 6) said the girl, who was referred to as Ella (not her real name), was subjected to “inconsistent and inappropriate parenting”.
In addition, the teen’s father would dish out physically abusive punishment on her, including pulling her hair, kicking her in the stomach and slapping her face.
Ella pleaded guilty to four charges: One charge of theft, two charges of cheating, and one charge of being a member of an unlawful assembly with the common object to voluntarily cause hurt.
She had stolen S$379.90 worth of eyelash serum from a Watsons outlet, and carried out scams on Carousell where she listed electronic items, such as the Nintendo Switch Lite and the Nintendo Switch games, but never delivered them.
She was also involved in a group attack of a person with a knuckleduster.
Another five charges were taken into consideration.
Through the screening conducted by the Singapore Children’s Society, it was identified that Ella exhibited risky behaviours, such as association with negative peers, underaged smoking, vaping, alcohol consumption, sexualised behaviours, coming home late at night, and staying away from home.
Ella and her parents were referred to a social service agency for family therapy, but Ella defaulted on three sessions without valid reason.
Counsellors attempted to work with Ella, but she expressed disinterest and prioritised having fun.
Acrimony between Ella’s parents prevented them from proper parenting.
Her parents were advised to file an application for a Family Guidance Order (FGO) at the Youth Court, but her father decided against it as Ella promised him that she would attend school.
Subjected to physical abuse by father and ex-boyfriend
Ella was referred to the Child Protective Service (CPS) six times in 2022 for concerns over alleged dating violence by her ex-boyfriend and her at-risk behaviours.
On Nov. 18, 2022, Ella was referred to CPS again due to concerns over harsh physical punishment dealt by her father.
Two days prior, on Nov. 16, 2022, home CCTV showed Ella’s father pulling her hair, kicking her stomach, slapping her face and hurling vulgarities at her.
Her mother then applied for a personal protection order and a domestic exclusion order for Ella.
“Inconsistent parenting styles”: screening
The screening conducted by the Singapore Children’s Society also revealed that Ella was subjected to “inconsistent parenting styles”.
CPS noted that Ella’s parents had difficulties in exercising proper supervision and control over her.
Their ability to manage her was inhibited by their acrimonious relationship and conflicting parenting styles, which often “triangulated” Ella.
While her mother was receptive to the professionals’ advice and attempted to impose routine and discipline, her father vacillated between harsh and permissive parenting styles.
CPS assessed that Ella would benefit from being placed in a structured environment, namely the Singapore Girls’ Home (SGH), for her own safety.
Found butane gas in her room while on bail
After Ella was charged on Aug. 24, 2022, her mother posted bail for her, but discharged herself as a bailor after she found 50 canisters of butane gas in Ella’s room.
It was not known what the butane gas would be used for.
As Ella repeatedly flouted bail conditions, her mother believed that it would be safer for Ella to reside in SGH.
However, her father then posted bail for Ella.
Ella continued to hang out with her peers and her mother continued to find butane gas in her room.
The court revoked bail on Oct. 12, 2022 and Ella was remanded at SGH.
The court was prepared to offer her another chance to be bailed out with an increased bail and stricter curfew hours, but she breached bail conditions again and ran away from home.
Parents going through divorce proceedings
Ella’s parents are undergoing divorce proceedings.
The proceedings have taken its toll on Ella’s state of mind and mental health.
Her mother made full restitution to the victims of the devised scams through monthly deductions in Ella’s monthly allowance.
Ella’s father requested the court to give Ella another chance “by ordering probation though it is not recommended”.
He offered to supervise her and stated that he will work hard to steer her away from her negative friends and ensure that Ella attend school by personally sending her to and from school.
He said “Ella is a tragic victim of circumstances and has fallen prey to bad influences”.
District Judge Amy Tung deemed probation not a suitable option.
She said prior intervention work conducted with Ella and her family did not help much as Ella continued to engage in at-risk behaviours throughout the period of intervention.
She also brought up the fact that her court bail was revoked twice.
“There was undoubtedly limited progress in attempting to turn Ella around using community-based programmes and she had not shown herself to be receptive towards such intervention,” said Judge Tung.
Judge Tung was also “not convinced” that Ella’s parents were able to provide the necessary familial support or supervision their daughter needed as they were currently undergoing acrimonious divorce proceedings.
A counsellor had also reported that “the parents’ differences in rule setting and inconsistencies in updating each other on Ella’s whereabouts had allowed her to take advantage of the communication gaps to bend the rules”.
Judge Tung added that while Ella’s father offered to be the supervising parent, she deemed him not suited as such, as he often “downplayed the seriousness of Ella’s actions and often made excuses for her”.
Lastly, Judge Tung remarked that Ella lacked cooperation and remorse:
“Ella verbalised regret mainly due to the lawful consequences that she had to face and presented a nonchalant attitude towards the victims of her cheating offences, giving the justification that she needed the monies. Ella also felt that it was stupid of her to get into trouble with the law over a small amount of monies.”
Ella will be sent to Singapore Girls’ Home for 21 months.
Her father has filed an appeal against the court order.
Top photo via eezee.sg & Google Maps