Child abuse: Strong medical reports help convict offenders, says paediatrician

Dr Irene Cheah Guat Sim heads the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

KUALA LUMPUR: Strong medical reports will enable successful prosecution of child abuse cases, a senior paediatrician said today.

Dr Irene Cheah Guat Sim, who heads the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, admitted that at times, the reports produced by doctors are disappointing.

“The reports are iffy iffy and not very conclusive. There are doctors who do not want to commit themselves in case they do something wrong.

“We need to be competent. We need to train ourselves up by reading in order to know the likely possibilities.

“When we feel strongly about something, and we have the evidence, we must write the report in a way the court can use it usefully to put the person where he belongs (in jail).

“We are not the judge nor the prosecutors, but we are the doctors who need to produce good reports to enable them to do their job well,” she said during a question-and-answer session at a forum on child abuse cases held at the Royal Malaysian Police College in Cheras here this evening.

Cheah said should there not be enough evidence, such as in a shaken baby syndrome case, where they do not know who is the person who did it, doctors could instead explain it using other ways.

“They can write in their reports that, ‘this bleeding in the brain, cannot be explained by abnormal bleeding time’.

“‘There is no history of trauma.’ ‘There is bleeding in the eyes.’

“These will really point to a non-accidental injury.

“If we write that, there is the likelihood that the deputy public prosecutor can bring the case to court,” she said.

Cheah, however, cited an instance where, despite a report containing all of the above, it was not brought to court.

“We made noise and, fortunately, the DPP was changed. The next DPP brought the case to court.

“You see, these are the things we need to do to push for the sake of the child. Everybody needs to do their part,” she said.

Cheah was responding to a question from a forensic pathologist, who had queried on whether there was a means of separating a child from the family, even if the alleged abuser had not been charged in court.

The forensic pathologist related a case he had handled where a two-year-old toddler with a family died due to a head injury. Two years later, the family’s second child also died due to a head injury as well.

Sketchy medical report

Another panellist, Sessions Court judge M Kunasundary, who has presided over numerous child sexual abuse cases, also weighed in on the issue, explaining that more often than not, when charges are not brought against the alleged perpetrators, it is because of the sketchy medical reports.

“When we have sketchy reports and the case goes to trial, that will be the end of it. The perpetrator will go out smiling. Nothing can be done because those reports are very important, especially when the victim is no longer around.”

Because of the sketchy medical reports, Kunasundary said the medical officer may be unable to answer questions put to them. Lawyers will pile on the questions when they spot a loophole to break the case.