Child's death, injury due to negligence: Attributing tragedies to fate not valid excuse - Lawyers

07 Dec 2023 06:30pm
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - People should not use Islamic teachings about acceptance over their failures to act in proper conduct.

Lawyer Fatihah Jamhari said in cases involving deaths or physical injuries of children because of negligence, parents or guardians should not blame fate to justify what had happened.

Instead, she said they should take responsibility if they could have prevented such incidents.

"Blaming fate for a child's death due to negligence is unjustifiable. Parents should take responsibility if they could have prevented it.

"It's pathetic to use Islamic teachings of acceptance to excuse our failures to act in proper conduct," she told Sinar Daily.

Fatihah was commenting on the issue of people using 'accidents' and 'fate' to justify parents' action in cases of neglect or abandonment leading to death and injury of young children.

She also made reference to cases such as the incident of a nine-year-old girl and her younger brother who perished in a pre-dawn fire at a terrace house in Jalan Dewan Simpang Tiga Kampung Tanggut in Kuala Lumpur when their parents were not home as well as cases of missing children and incidents where children were left inside the car alone.

She added that the latest case of six-year-old autistic boy Zayn Rayyan who was reported missing and was found drowned last night, further accentuated the significance of addressing and preventing instances of parental negligence.

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In all these types of cases, she said the primary concern has consistently been ensuring the safety and security of children, but there was also a prevalent apologetic stance from the public, often excusing incidents as 'fate'.

In instances of neglect brought before the court, she noted that frequently, the offenders were not parents to the child-victim.

She said despite the same underlying fact, there appeared to be a tendency to excuse parents more when negligence occured within their own families.

"In 2019, a bus driver faced charges for neglect when he left a child in his bus during transit from school to daycare.

"Similarly, in the same year, a day-care centre operator was charged with neglect when a child was injured from spilled hot water while at the centre.

"For me it is interesting to note that JKM (Social Welfare Department) and the police are quick and up in arms against non-parents. But if it involved parents who left their children in their cars to fatal end, no further action is taken.

"It's the same fact but it seems that we tend to excuse parents more if it involved their own children.

"We speak about it, debate about it. Every year a similar incident reoccurs,” she added.

Fatihah also said a significant concern about the potential risk that in the future, a parent might resort to such means to get rid of their child and escape accountability.

She also highlighted the technologies that have advanced so much and advised parents to keep a tracking tag on children which can be monitored via mobile phones.

"The world is so volatile and safety and security of a child should be the paramount consideration," she said.

Meanwhile former Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said attributing tragedies to fate was not a valid excuse and an ill-conceived notion, especially when there were means and options available to prevent mishaps befalling innocent souls.

He said parents and guardians were responsible and have moral and legal duties to care for and supervise their children and leaving children without supervision at home or in public would expose them to enormous risk resulting in the death or physical injuries.

"An offence for neglecting and leaving a child unsupervised for a period which is unreasonable having regard to all circumstances should be treated and measured as a serious crime.

"Everyone need to play a role in protecting children," he said when contacted.

Salim said the government should consider building temporary centres or shelters that were cost free to provide cares for infants or children of tender age in situation of parents or single mothers whom may not be able to care for their kids during working hours and could not afford to send their children to private nurseries or kindergartens, resulting them to take risk of placing them at home unattended by adults.

However, he pointed out that mere legal provisions were insufficient without a profound self-realisation of the gravity of the matter and the crucial importance of vigilant oversight for the safety and welfare of these children.