Bella: High Court upholds Siti Bainun's conviction and sentence

02 May 2024 12:20pm
 Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali - BERNAMA FILE PIX
Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali - BERNAMA FILE PIX

KUALA LUMPUR - The High Court today upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence against Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali for neglecting and abusing Bella, a teenage girl with Down’s syndrome.

Judge Datuk Noorin Badaruddin dismissed Siti Bainun's appeal to set aside the conviction and sentence imposed by the Sessions Court in May 2023.

"The court finds no reason to tamper with the findings of the Sessions Court judge. Therefore, the appellant's conviction and sentence are safe and upheld. The appellant's appeal is dismissed," said the judge.

On May 3, 2023, Sessions Court Judge Izralizam Sanusi sentenced Siti Bainun to 12 years in prison after finding her guilty on two charges of neglecting and abusing Bella, 13, and ordered her to start serving the sentence immediately after rejecting her application for a stay of execution.

Siti Bainun was sent to Kajang Prison to serve her prison sentence.

Judge Noorin also rejected the application by Siti Bainun's lawyer Haijan Omar, for a stay of the sentence pending her appeal of today's verdict filed at the Court of Appeal.

In her judgment, she stated that the court found 18 injuries and scars on the victim's body, proven by all the medical witnesses that they were not accidental or self-inflicted (by Bella).

"The court is satisfied that the Sessions Court judge conducted a thorough assessment of the prosecution witnesses, including eyewitness Yasmin Nahar Mahmood (a former resident of Rumah Bonda), who testified as the fifth prosecution witness (PW5), supported by expert medical witnesses who examined the victim.

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"The court also finds that the Sessions Court judge did not err in his findings in concluding that, based on all the evidence presented, the appellant was responsible for the physical and emotional injuries inflicted on the victim," she said.

According to Judge Noorin, besides the testimony of PW5, the testimony of PW8, Suhana Zam (a close friend of Siti Bainun), was also supported by medical evidence consistently indicating that the injuries sustained by the victim were not accidental.

Therefore, she said, the court found it difficult to conclude that both witnesses fabricated their stories against the appellant.

According to Judge Noorin, the victim was a special needs child, and the testimony of the prosecution witnesses as a whole completes the prosecution's narrative that the victim was neglected and abused, resulting in physical and emotional injuries.

She stated that the court found the appellant's defence, claiming that the victim suffered only one scalding, to be inconsistent with the narrative and evidence presented by the prosecution.

She said that expert witnesses stated that examinations of the victim revealed that the injuries had occurred at different times because some of them had healed.

The judge added that the testimony provided by these expert witnesses was consistent, whereas the appellant's and defense witnesses' accounts of a single hot water spillage was contradictory.

"The court found that nearly all the reasons given by the appellant in her petition were repetitions of issues raised during the Sessions Court trial.

"The court finds that the issues raised by the appellant and her defense could not raise reasonable doubt about the essence of the charges against her," the judge said.

Regarding the charges, Judge Noorin stated that based on the deposition notes, the court found no evidence or circumstances indicating that the appellant was confused about the charges against her, rendering her unable to defend herself.

The court found that the appellant was adequately notified about the charges from the outset and comprehended the nature of the case concerning how the offenses were committed.

According to the judge, the testimonies presented and the extensive cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses indicated that the appellant was aware, not confused, and understood that the charges against her involved neglect and abuse that she had committed, both physically and emotionally, against the victim.

"The court is also satisfied that through the cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses, the appellant was not prejudiced by the charges presented, whether before or after they were amended by the Sessions Court judge," she said.

According to the charges, Siti Bainun was accused of neglecting and abusing the teenage girl with Down's syndrome, causing her to suffer physical and emotional injuries at a condominium unit in Wangsa Maju between Feb and June 2021.

Both charges were framed under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment or a fine of RM50,000 or both.

The court also ordered Siti Bainun to sign a good behaviour bond for five years with a surety and a bond of RM5,000, and to perform 200 hours of community service to be completed within six months after serving the prison sentence.

The case was handled by deputy public prosecutors Zahida Zakaria and Analia Kamaruddin, while Siti Bainun's counsel Haijan was assisted by lawyers Nur A'minahtul Mardiah Md Noor and Nurul Hafidzah Hassan.

Siti Bainun appeared in court wearing a white robe and a light green headscarf.

Speaking to reporters after the proceedings, lawyer Datuk Khairul Anwar Rahmat, who was appointed as an observer by the Regent of Johor, Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, said Bella is still traumatised despite her injuries having healed.

He said based on clinical assessments, Bella is presently 17 years old, and they have reached out to the National Registration Department through the Social Welfare Department, to obtain updates on her identification card status. - BERNAMA

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