Another mother kills her autistic child

15 Nov

In what’s turned out to be a terrible year for autistic children, survival wise, another ‘mother’ has killed her autistic child.

A mother forced her 12-year-old autistic son drink a cup of bleach because she feared social services would take him, a court heard.

Satpal Kaur Singh, 44, killed her son Ajit just hours after she refused to cooperate with council staff at a meeting over his care.

This time it is clear that Singh was

…suffering a mental disorder.

And so I have to wrestle with my feelings. My immediate feeling is that if she had a mental disorder she cannot be held accountable for her actions. However, my other feelings are revolted not just be the murder but by the horribly cruel way she murdered her son. Making him drink a cup of bleach must’ve been a long drawn out and horrendously painful process for young Ajit.

At the end, this time searching questions must be asked of Social Services. If they had concerns over Singh’s parenting skills and her behaviour which they apparently did why was Ajit Singh not placed on the ‘at risk’ register. Or were they already beginning that process and it was this that set Satpal Kaur Singh on her murderous course?

Its an appalling story and at the bottom of it is a little boy who was killed by the one person he should’ve been able to put all his trust in and in a manner so awful it makes me shudder.

9 Responses to “Another mother kills her autistic child”

  1. Brainduck November 15, 2010 at 23:13 #

    TBF, the BBC reports make it much less clear whether Ms Kaur-Singh actually had a ‘mental disorder’.
    In any case, severe mental illness is not in itself a risk factor for violence, once alcohol and drug use are factored out.

  2. Joseph November 16, 2010 at 00:53 #

    My immediate feeling is that if she had a mental disorder she cannot be held accountable for her actions.

    Why? (Unless it’s a mental disorder that makes you completely irrational, or unable to control your actions.)

  3. KWombles November 16, 2010 at 02:39 #

    I have to agree with Joseph, mental illness is not a reason for someone to not be held legally accountable for her actions; it may not mean jail or prison is appropriate, but being held in a mental health facility is. The courts will decide the appropriate action. Even if it’s a mental disorder that made her incapable of controlling her actions (pouring a glass of bleach doesn’t suggest inability to control her actions), she would be in the US be considered not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental institution: still accountable.

    I’m not sure why there’s a need to struggle for how to feel about the perpetrator, other than that the act was unacceptable.

    Why is it not possible to withhold emotional reaction towards the mother until the case is adjudicated?

    I condemn the action; I am saddened by the loss of an innocent, and I believe that it is important that the mother be held accountable for her actions. Beyond that, I would think the most responsible response would be to wait until the entire story is known and her case brought to trial.

  4. Kev November 16, 2010 at 11:15 #

    I guess this is a case where my feelings as a mental health advocate and an autism advocate converge. Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting the mother should suffer no rehabilitation at her majesty’s pleasure, merely that this time there is a question of mental illness and that should be taken into account. Can someone with a mental illness ever _truly_ be accountable for their actions? Of course, I know myself that when I am stable I’m a perfectly ordinary functioning member of society. However when I’m manic or depressive I say or do things (sometimes) that I later regret. Can I truly be held accountable for whats happened?

    I guess a better way to put it is that this mother is responsible but not to blame.

  5. ebohlman November 18, 2010 at 07:35 #

    KWombles: What you describe (at least as far as what would happen in the US, which is not where the crime happened) presumes that her defense counsel mounts an insanity defense, something that’s done quite rarely and succeeds even more rarely. Otherwise, the presence or absence of mental illness doesn’t automatically become a factor in the determination of guilt. Some jurisdictions allow “diminished responsibility” defenses, but this is becoming less and less common, particularly since the Harvey Milk/George Moscone murder case where Dan White claimed depression as a defense (way to stigmatize depression!). For example, Henderson and McKinney were unable to use a “gay panic” defense in the Matthew Shepard murder trial because Wyoming law doesn’t recognize diminished-responsibility defenses.

    The one place where the question of mental illness is likely to come up is sentencing, where mental illness can be considered a mitigating factor, which is to say, one that argues for “pulling” the sentence toward the minimum and away from the maximum. It’s important to remember that this only comes into play after a conviction; mitigation does not argue against conviction.

    A completely different issue is “fitness to stand trial.” This involves the defendant’s mental state at the time of trial, not at the time of the crime they’re accused of. If a defendant is judged incompetent to participate in his/her defense at the time of trial, the trial is deferred until such time as the defendant becomes competent. Normally the defendant would be held in a secure mental-health facility until such time. The important point is that lack of competence to stand trial does not result in the defendant “getting off.”

  6. Marie April 27, 2011 at 17:24 #

    My autistic son drives me up the wall at times but I could never hurt him. I do believe alot of these actions stem from the fear they will be taken away from the parents. When it comes to social services you either agree with them and do what they think needs to be done or they will take action. Who is to say they know? A mother knows what is best for her kids and in some cases they consider it neglect if you do not think it is best. Not to say any of this is right by no means. I just believe it happens more recently because of the fear of being condemed and having your child tooken because “they think they know what is right”.

  7. Kate November 14, 2011 at 13:18 #

    Do any of you have an autistic child?
    Do any of you know what it is like to cope on your own 24 hours per day with a child who is constantly crying, complaining, being abusive?
    I dont condone what she did, but I identify closely with the state of mind where you are ground down so much that you have to do something.
    These things so not happen immediately. People caring for autistic relatives, children, siblings, especially on their own need help from Social services – time to think, time to mix with someone else – and they do not often get it.
    Blame our inadequate systems.
    The parents of hte children are not to blame for theire being autistic – but something is.
    The system should be helping people immediately – not waiting until the individuals crack under the pressure and then blame them for it.
    This lady obviously has a mental disorder too. Drinking bleach?
    I cannot imagine it.
    Its a shame that these cases are not seen in the light where they would help others in these difficult circumstances to get hte help they need – but they are not.
    Like all of you the majority of people will say ooh ahh, what a nutter how awful.
    This women was under extreme stress and her plight and actions should be flagged up as a warning to sort out the system so that the chances of this happenning and people sufferring like this are eradicated.

  8. Julian Frost November 14, 2011 at 13:29 #

    @Kate: did you even read the comments above? Marie quite clearly stated that her son is autistic. Kev Leitch is the father of an autistic child, and the stepfather of another. Kim Wombles is the mother to an autistic. This is an autism blog. A significant number of commenters here are either the parents or spouses of autistic people, or are themselves autistic. Some are more than one of the above.

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