Couple sentenced to jail for maid abuse, out on bail pending appeal

IT manager Tay Wee Kiat was sentenced to 28 months' jail and his wife Chia Yun Ling was sentenced to two months' jail.
IT manager Tay Wee Kiat was sentenced to 28 months' jail and his wife Chia Yun Ling was sentenced to two months' jail. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A former regional IT manager and his wife who abused their maid were on Friday sentenced to two years and four months', and two months' jail respectively.

Tay Wee Kiat, 39, was found guilty of 10 charges of abusing his Indonesian maid Fitriyah and one charge each of offering to pay the 34-year-old her salary and send her home, in return for not reporting his offence to the police. He was also found guilty of instructing her to lie to the police that he did not physically abuse another maid, Myanmar national Moe Moe Than, 28, in 2012.

His wife, Chia Yun Ling, 41, was convicted of slapping Ms Fitriyah sometime between June and December 2012, and punching her on the forehead on Dec 7 that year.

Both are appealing against their conviction and sentences, and are out on $5,000 bail each.

The prosecution's case is that Tay forced the Indonesian maid, Ms Fitriyah, to stand on one leg on a stool while holding another stool in her hand. And while she was forced to maintain that position for half an hour, Tay forced a small plastic bottle into her mouth.

Ms Than, the other maid, testified at the trial that Tay forced her and Ms Fitriyah to get down on all fours then kicked their backsides. He also made them slap each other 10 times and hit them with three tied-up canes.

She said that Tay kicked them after he asked if they had folded a piece of paper belonging to his daughter.When both denied it, Ms Than said he kicked them.

Ms Than said the couple were "good" to Ms Fitriyah but sometimes found fault with her and punished her.

She recalled that Chia hit Ms Fitriyah when she found some washed bedsheets that had not been hung out to dry. Ms Than said she saw Ms Fitriyah crying after being hit.

Ms Than spent 10 months working for the couple at their Yishun home. She claimed she was given no time off and was allowed to drink and use the toilet just three times a day - otherwise she said she would be made to "jump like a rabbit" around the flat.

In October 2012, Ms Than was sent back to Myanmar without knowing why. She returned to Singapore two months later to lodge a report against her former employers.

Seventeen other stood down charges against Chia and 11 against Tay were fixed for a pre-trial conference on April 4.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Dora Tay sought at least 33 months' jail for Tay and three months for Chia.

Among the aggravating factors they cited were the multiple instances of abuse over a prolonged period; the serious nature of the assaults; and the couple's abuse of authority over the maid who was assaulted because of trivial things.

The prosecutors said the sentence must correspond to the severity of offences the couple committed, and must also address the pressing public interest in deterring like-minded individuals from exploiting foreign domestic helpers who are making an honest living in Singapore.

Tay and Chia, defended by Mr Wee Pan Lee, could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $7,500 per charge of causing hurt.