High Court quashes acquittal of woman for slapping maid, orders retrial

Kathleen Chua Siew Wei's elder sister Chua Siew Peng (left) and mother Lum Wai Lui (centre) were separately tried for abusing Filipina Jonna Memeje Muegue (right).
Kathleen Chua Siew Wei's elder sister Chua Siew Peng (left) and mother Lum Wai Lui (centre) were separately tried for abusing Filipina Jonna Memeje Muegue (right).PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 42-year-old woman, cleared last year by a district court of slapping her sister's maid nearly four years ago, will go through a retrial, after the High Court overturned the acquittal on Friday (March 11).

The prosecution had appealed against the acquittal of Kathleen Chua Siew Wei, arguing that the district judge's various interventions during the trial prevented Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang from cross-examining her properly on the stand.

The trial judge had disallowed the DPP from asking Chua about, among other things, her past experience in employing maids, the frequency with which she scolded the maid and an allegation that the maid was not paid her salary for the first seven months because it was set off against a loan Chua had given her.

The prosecution also argued that the trial judge's findings were against the weight of the evidence and should be overturned.

On Friday, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found that the trial judge had "narrowed his focus unduly" by considering only testimony directly related to the alleged May 2012 slapping incident.

"In so doing, he had not only unfairly restricted the ambit of the prosecution's cross-examination and impeded their ability to present their case fully but had also impaired his own ability to evaluate and weigh the case presented by each side," he said.

The JC also found that the trial judge had failed to consider essential pieces of evidence in arriving at his conclusion.

Chua, her elder sister Chua Siew Peng, 44, and their mother, Lum Wai Lui, 75, were separately tried for abusing Filipina Jonna Memeje Muegue, who escaped from their sixth-floor Maplewoods condominium by jumping out from a bedroom window in October 2012.

The domestic helper landed on a fifth-floor rooftop, breaking both her legs in the fall. She was later referred to a welfare organisation and a police report was lodged.

Her employer, Chua Siew Peng has been convicted of wrongfully confining the maid at the Bukit Timah Road condominium on Oct 30, 2012, and slapping her the night before. She is awaiting sentencing.

The sisters' mother, a retired radiograph and medicine technician who was diagnosed to be suffering from depression and schizophrenia, was put on 21 months' probation in February this year.

selinal@sph.com.sg