Taipei, June 27 (CNA) A drug dealer was sentenced to death Wednesday for brutally abusing and ultimately killing a 2-year-old boy born to his live-in girlfriend.
Liu Chin-lung, who has a record of several drug-related offenses, was the first person to be sentenced to death for the crime of child abuse resulting in death in accordance with the Statute for Narcotics Hazard Prevention and Control.
In the past, the harshest penalty for child abusers was life imprisonment.
One of the men who joined Liu in cruelly abusing the boy, Chou Chien-hui, was given a life sentence, while two others, Cheng Sheng-feng and Hsu Kuan-hsiung, were sentenced to 14 years and 13 years in prison, respectively.
According to the Taipei District Court ruling, Liu took the boy away from his girlfriend's apartment last October and left him in the hands of the three other men. He told his girlfriend that the boy was with a babysitter.
From Oct. 11 through Nov. 1, 2011, Liu and the three others used cruel ways to abuse the boy, which according to the ruling was done to try to get him to stop crying and screaming.
They even gave him amphetamines and heroin, causing the child to fall into a coma. The boy did not show any vital signs after being taken to a hospital early last November, and doctors later found high levels of drugs in his body.
Sun Cheng-hua, the chief judge in the case, said the defendants did not show any remorse for their cruelty and had used every possible means to try to dodge responsibility and legal liability.
"The defendants showed neither empathy nor mercy and judging from the photo of the boy's dead body, he endured pain that would have even been unbearable to adults," Sun said at a news conference after handing out the unusually harsh penalties to the four defendants.
The sentences were not final, however, because the defendants are entitled to appeal their cases.
Ruling Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min said the Legislative Yuan has completed the first reading of a package of amendments to the Children and Youth Welfare Act that may have prevented the tragedy.
The amendments would require judicial police, prosecutors and courts to look into the living conditions of children whose parents or legal custodians are being detained or imprisoned for drug offenses and report the situations to competent authorities.
"I earnestly hope that the package can be put on to the agenda of an extra legislative session scheduled to take place in July," Wang said, urging that the existing child welfare act be revised so that law enforcement authorities can help prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.
Wang Wei-chun, the boy's aunt, said on the same occasion that the boy's father, who was divorced from the boy's mother, is still serving a prison term for a drug conviction.
"Although prison officials once asked my brother whether he had any young children, my brother did not honestly answer the question as he was afraid that the child would be taken away from the boy's mother," Wang Wei-chun said.
"I hope the proposed amendments can be passed soon to allow law enforcement authorities to intervene and better protect youngsters from abuse," she said.
(By Sherry Tang, Tsai Pei-chi and Sofia Wu)