Judge acquits woman of failing to provide safe working environment for maid

Ms Belinda Huber was accused of allowing Ms Taculad Rose Mae Mata to clean the glass awning over the porch area of her Goldhill Avenue house near Dunearn Road.
Ms Belinda Huber was accused of allowing Ms Taculad Rose Mae Mata to clean the glass awning over the porch area of her Goldhill Avenue house near Dunearn Road.PHOTOS: ST FILE, VILLEGAS LYN BALBAO

SINGAPORE - A woman whose then domestic helper was caught on camera in 2017 cleaning a second-storey glass awning was acquitted on Tuesday (Jan 28) of failing to provide a safe working environment for the Filipina.

Following a trial, District Judge Salina Ishak gave Australian Belinda Huber, alias Belinda Tran, 37, a discharge amounting to an acquittal for the offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Those given such a discharge cannot be charged again with the same offence.

In giving her verdict, Judge Salina said she did not find the testimony of the maid, Ms Taculad Rose Mae Mata, to be "unusually convincing".

Ms Huber is a director of Huber's, the parent company of Huber's Butchery.

She was all smiles on Tuesday when she found out about the judge's decision.

She told reporters outside the courtroom: "I'm very relieved that justice has prevailed."

She had claimed trial to one count of failing to provide a safe working environment for Ms Mata between early June and July 4, 2017.

Ms Huber was accused of allowing Ms Mata to clean the glass awning over the porch area of her Goldhill Avenue house near Dunearn Road.

During the trial on Oct 25 last year, Ms Huber testified in court that she had never seen the helper standing on the glass awning.

She also said that if she had seen Ms Mata there, she would have told the Filipina: "Come back. You shouldn't be there."

 
 
 

She had told Judge Salina that she had "a lot of issues" with Ms Mata, adding that the Filipina could not get along with her other helpers.

Ms Huber also testified last year that Ms Mata had caused strangers to turn up at the house and had a history of coming home late.

Another maid, Ms Villegas Lyn Balbao, told the court during the trial last year that Ms Mata had expressed her intention to change employers while she was working for Ms Huber.

Ms Balbao, who worked for Ms Huber's neighbour, added that she spotted Ms Mata cleaning the glass awning by standing on its surface in July 2017.

Ms Balbao added that Ms Mata then asked her to snap a picture and she complied.

Ms Balbao also said: "I asked her 'Do you want me to pass to MOM (Ministry of Manpower)?'... She said yes."

The court heard that Ms Balbao did not pass the picture to the ministry. Instead, the image was posted online and it went viral soon after.

Taking the stand on Oct 24 last year, Ms Mata told the court that her employer had spotted her cleaning the glass awning by standing on its surface on two occasions.

The Filipina also claimed that Ms Huber did not stop her from cleaning the awning in such a manner and instead told her to hold on to the railing.

 
 

Ms Mata, however, told Judge Salina that Ms Huber had not instructed her to clean the awning by standing on its surface.

She testified that another maid, who was then working at Ms Huber's house, was the one who had shown her how to clean the awning that way.

Those convicted of the offence under the Act can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.