Prosecution: Maximum jail term for couple who starved maid

Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon deprived their maid of food, causing her to go from 49kg to 29.4kg in 15 months.
Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon deprived their maid of food, causing her to go from 49kg to 29.4kg in 15 months. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Soo Tet did not hold back as he called for the maximum jail term of one year for a married couple who had starved their maid.

Freelance trader Lim Choon Hong and housewife Chong Sui Foon, both 48, had deprived Filipina Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, now 41, of adequate food causing the mother of three to go from 49kg to 29.4kg in 15 months between 2013 and 2014.

In his submissions on Thursday (Feb 23), DPP Tan said: "It is sickening that the victim had been forced to endure inhumane treatment of such cruelty and duration in what must have for her been an unspeakably hellish and unbearable existence."

He said even though Chong has a history of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), there was no link between her mental condition and her offence.

"She deliberately and selectively exercised blatant discrimination against the victim," he added.

DPP Tan told District Judge Low Wee Ping that Lim was jointly responsible in restricting Madam Gawidan's food over the entire period of her employment from Jan 23, 2013 to April 18, 2014.

He said when the maid approached Lim directly to ask for more food, he denied her request and told her to eat what she had been given.

DPP Tan said: "He personally purchased the plain white bread and instant noodles meant for the victim's sole and exclusive consumption.

 

"He was expressly aware of the food portions and meals which the victim was being provided, including the quantity and type of food, as well as the frequency and timing of the victim's meals."

On Thursday, the couple's lawyer, Mr Raymond Lye told the court that the couple has decided to give Madam Gawidan $10,000 in compensation.

He also asked the judge to consider a mandatory treatment order (MTO) or probation for Chong.

An MTO is for offenders who suffer from psychiatric conditions. They must go for psychiatric treatment in lieu of jail time.

But Judge Low denied his request, stressing there was no evidence that her OCD extended to an obsession and compulsion of restricting Madam Gawidan's food and starving her.

On March 23, last year, Lim pleaded guilty to failing to provide Madam Gawidan with adequate food, causing the weight loss.

Chong pleaded guilty to abetting him in committing the offence.

The couple, who have three children between 17 and 22 years old, will be back in court on March 16.

For committing the offence, they can each by jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.