CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to child abuse.
An ex-childcare worker who sexually abused a four-year-old boy at a daycare centre needs to say “sorry”, his young victim has said.
Muhammad Ali, 30, was found guilty of committing an act of indecency on the boy at an ACT Supreme Court trial earlier this year.
He hung his head and did not look up while the boy’s mother told the court about the effect of his abuse at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday (14 November).
“I had begun teaching [the boy] about protective behaviours and body safety a year prior to this crime,” his mother said.
“When he disclosed the crime to me, one of my first thoughts was ‘that book worked’.”
She talked about the impact on her child. For instance, when her son was giving evidence during a pre-trial hearing earlier this year, he told her, “Mum, I can’t breathe. I haven’t been able to breathe all week”.
“This was hard to hear as a mother,” she said.
“For a moment, I questioned if I was doing the right thing, but I reminded myself that we weren’t just here for [him]. We were here to put a stop to this behaviour and protect the community.”
The mother also spoke about the effect the crime had on herself.
“The guilt I carry with me every day for not realising the true meaning behind the warning signs [he] was displaying will forever play over in my mind,” she said.
“I no longer trust males around my children due to this event … I am hoping that with time, I can see and trust that not all men are like this.
“When mothers communicate to me about the actions of their children, I catch myself digging further for abuse indicators that they might not have noticed.”
She described her son as shy, kind, polite and intelligent. She was recently checking in with him to see how he was feeling when she told him, “I’m sorry that Ali made you feel that way and I’m sorry you didn’t feel safe”.
He replied, “No, Mum, you don’t need to say sorry.; Ali does”.
Justice Belinda Baker thanked her for making her “difficult but extremely important” statement to the court.
Ali had faced a trial accused of indecently assaulting the boy at the centre in 2022.
Jurors heard that when the boy was picked up from the centre, he told his mother he’d had a bad day. He said “Ali” was being mean to him and his friends and had touched his genitals while he was outside.
In the boy’s interview with a police officer, he was asked about what happened.
“He pinched me on the doodle and it hurted me,” the boy said.
“It made me feel bad so I bited him on the arm.”
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutor Trent Hickey said there had clearly been a breach of trust, saying it occurred in a childcare setting and involved a young child as well as an adult who was in a position of trust.
He said it was very difficult for a child in that sort of situation to come forward.
He also said Ali had a relatively normal upbringing and, as he had not pleaded guilty, had not shown remorse.
Defence barrister James Sabharwal said his client had been in Australia for about 10 years and had become qualified as a childcare worker but would not be able to work in that industry again.
“This was an isolated act in relation to this particular child,” he argued.
“It was of very short duration. It was through the clothes.”
Ali was stood down from his job at the daycare centre when the allegations, which he denied, came to light.
Justice Baker will sentence him on 22 November. He remains on bail.