CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to child abuse.
A former childcare worker, who has not shown any remorse for sexually abusing a four-year-old boy in a playground, has been sentenced to imprisonment.
Muhammad Ali was handed 18 months’ jail with a non-parole period of 12 months in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday (22 November).
After the 30-year-old was taken into custody, the victim’s mother said she was “very, very happy” with the sentence and they came forward because, “If I didn’t do anything, this man could still be working in childcare”.
She said her “super smart” son was still affected by what happened, but his recovery was progressing. She did say education authorities had still not contacted her.
“Since [his] disclosure, no one has reached out to me to see how I am, to say sorry, to let me know it’s been followed up,” the mother said.
She also said she had been teaching her son protective behaviours since he was three, such as not allowing anyone to touch his body, being persistent when telling his complaints to adults in his safety team, as well as identifying warning signs, like butterflies in the tummy or shaking legs.
Ali was casually employed as an assistant educator at the daycare centre in 2022 and had been supervising a number of children in their outdoor play area when he touched the victim’s genitals, Justice Belinda Baker said.
The victim asked why he was doing that and bit him on the arm, then walked away and started crying.
Another educator saw the boy and asked Ali what happened, but he claimed the victim had bitten him then became upset when he threatened to tell the victim’s mother.
After his mother collected him from the daycare, she asked how his day had been. When he told her Ali had “pinched [him] on the doodle”, she used her phone to record the conversation before reporting the incident to police.
Justice Baker said the offending represented “a gross breach of trust”.
She noted a psychologist had told the court that children of the victim’s age often lacked the verbal and emotional skills necessary to make a sexual offending complaint.
“As [the psychologist] described, it is also difficult for such children to speak out because of their relative powerlessness to their adult carers,” Justice Baker said.
“As a result, this form of offending can be very difficult to detect.
“The effects of sexual offending upon children is not limited to the particular child victim, but ricochets across the families of those victims and through the broader community.”
The justice said there had only been a single offence and the assault was brief, but it was sexually motivated.
She also said while Ali had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other disorders, there was no evidence of their effects on him.
Ali went to school in Pakistan, moved to Australia to study then obtained a Diploma of Early Childhood Education. He worked as a security guard before moving to the childcare industry.
Justice Baker said he’d been unemployed twice due to drug use before he got a job at the daycare centre where he assaulted his victim.
She also said while he was in Australia on a bridging visa, she had no evidence on whether he was likely to be deported due to his conviction.
Ali was found guilty of committing an act of indecency on the boy at his Supreme Court trial earlier this year. The victim’s mother told the court about the impacts of the abuse at a sentencing hearing earlier this month.
He is eligible to be released from custody in November 2024.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:
Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 or kidshelpline.com.au
MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au.