A father who whipped his “severely autistic” son over the legs with a coathanger has been fined $1200 by a magistrate who said to use a weapon on his child involved “an appalling lack of judgement”.
Szu Sheng Lo, 41, admitted assaulting the 12-year-old after he had a “meltdown” at their in Canning Vale home in December.
The Armadale Magistrate’s Court was today told Lo hit his son on the back of his legs after he “took exception” to his instructions to change his shirt after a bike ride and before he went to church with his care workers.
Through his lawyer, Lo said he found the coathanger in the lounge room and “thought giving him a tap on the legs might settle him down”.
Lo previously claimed there was a “cultural element” to the act of discipline, saying he was punished that way by his primary school teacher and it “worked on me”.
“He realises now raising children in Australia is different to the upbringing he had in the past,” the lawyer said.
The court was told Lo and his wife worked part-time to care for their two sons, who both have severe autism, and also needed considerable outside help.
His lawyer said Lo was “extremely” remorseful and had contacted autism support groups for advice on how to care for both of his sons.
The father’s offending was out-of-character, the lawyer said, who said in a reference, his wife described him as a “loving father”.
Sentencing Lo, Magistrate Steven Malley said he could appreciate that the father’s circumstances “could be testing for anybody”.
But he said “as soon as you picked up that weapon … and used it on your child, that’s an appalling lack of judgement on your part”.
“This is someone who is dependent on you,” Mr Malley said.
Mr Malley added it was not the case that Lo simply “tapped” the child, saying photographs show “very significant marks”.
“It had to have been done with a forceful effect,” he said.
Mr Malley refused to grant Lo a spent conviction despite accepting he was of previous good character, saying “using a weapon on a vulnerable person is a serious matter” and his behaviour “comes with a consequence”.
As well as the fine, Lo was ordered to pay $107.50 in costs. Lo sprinted from court and did not stop to answer questions from journalists.
After a previous court hearing, Lo said he regretted his actions. “They have disabilities,” he said. “We have a lot of stress difficulties to take care of them.”