Filipina who threw baby off window gets probation

 

The High Court judge said the accused had suffered enough

A 25-year-old Filipina smiled in relief as a High Court judge sentenced her to 12 months’ probation on Thursday for failing to disclose the birth of her baby girl, whom she threw
out of the bathroom window of a Lantau flat
 four years ago, thinking she was dead.

During her probation, Jill Naomi G.
Villanueva, who used to work as a parttime receptionist, must be of good behavior and keep in close touch with her probation officer. She must also reside with her
mother in Lantau, and comply with a curfew of between 12midnight to 6am.

It took Judge Allen Lee some time to
consider the sentence on Jill Naomi G. Villanueva, thinking that if he followed the probation report 
he would be restricting the power of Immigration to deport Villanueva back to the Philippines if it so deems as her dependant’s visa had lapsed while her case was ongoing.

Villanueva had been in jail for 22 and
a half months before she was granted bail in February this year,
after the original charge of manslaughter was downgraded to concealing the birth
of a child. 
This was after the prosecution conceded
it could not rule out the possibility that the baby had been dead when she was tossed out the window.

Defense lawyer Jimmy Ma assured the judge that
there was a big chance Immigration would extend Villanueva’s visa as her mother,
a permanent resident of Hong Kong, was willing to take her back.

Judge Lee then asked if it if wouldn’t be better if he just sentenced Villanueva to a jail term as that would result in
her being freed immediately as she had spent enough time in detention. That would allow Immigration to decided whether to deport her,
or allow her to continue living in Hong Kong on a dependant’s visa.

“I don’t want to tie the hands of the Immigration
Department,” the judge said, adding that if Immigration decided to deport
Villanueva after the sentencing, a probation order could not be enforced.

He said the maximum jail term for the
offence for which she was charged was 24 months in jail, so she could be freed immediately,
having served enough time in jail.

But Ma suggested this was not a viable
option as Villanueva really wanted to remain in Hong Kong to live with her mother.
He also said that in cases of this nature, the intent of the court is for
rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Further, he said that at the time of the
incident, Villanueva’s mind had gone blank, “she was in panic, she did not know
what to do,” said Ma. She also had no intention to hide the baby’s birth,
otherwise she would not have thrown her off the window, and onto a place where
she could easily be seen.

Also, as she had been in custody for nearly two
years, “I believe she has been punished enough,” said Ma.

In the end, Judge Lee agreed to impose probation, but added that this was not to “fetter the Immigration
Department’s work.

“I just hope that the defendant’s case
will be dealt with in a sympathetic way,” he said.

The judge agreed that Villanueva had suffered enough, and would have to live with what she did for the rest of her life.

The evidence showed that the baby was
born premature, and was delivered by Villanueva, head first, in the toilet of
the flat at about 3am that day. According to her, the baby did not cry.

After picking up the baby from the
toilet, she washed her and wrapped her in some clothing, but there was still no
response. In panic, she threw the baby outside the window.

At about 10:30am that same morning, passersby saw the baby on the street outside no 116, Tong Fuk, Lantau Island and called police. Paramedics confirmed the baby was dead at the scene.

According to the agreed facts,
Villanueva had a relationship with a Pakistani male colleague in mid-July 2019,
when she was 21 years old, which resulted in her getting pregnant.

She told her superior at her workplace
but kept the pregnancy from her mother.

She went to the hospital twice for
consultation after developing abdominal pain, and an abortion was suggested.
However, she insisted on being discharged both times as she did not want her
mother to know.

A forensic examination revealed that the
baby had multiple injuries including skull fractures and bleeding in the head,
heart, lungs and kidneys, which may have been caused by her falling from a
height.

However, while the injuries may have
been caused by the fall, the pathologist did not rule out that the baby was
stillborn, or had died shortly after birth.

In a similar case decided in July last
year, a 42-year-old woman was put on probation for two years for killing her
baby girl by throwing her off a footbridge in Tsuen Wan in 2022.

The High Court accepted that Leung
Ka-yi, 42, was suffering from postpartum anxiety at the time.

Although she pleaded guilty to infanticide,
no custodial sentence was imposed on her.

In sentencing, Judge Esther Toh
described the case as a “tragedy”, having gotten pregnant during the pandemic
and could not visit her mother who had dementia while isolating.

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