Sentencing framework for maid abuse cases

The Supreme Court laid out a sentencing framework for maid abuse cases yesterday, after Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon signalled the need to review sentencing benchmarks "upwards" for such offences.

First, the court should determine whether the harm caused to the victim was predominantly physical, or both physical and psychological.

For cases that are predominantly physical, the court should consider degree of harm as well as the aggravating and mitigating factors in determining the appropriate sentence. If the abuse was both physical and psychological, the court is to identify the degree of harm caused in relation to each charge. The Supreme Court said psychological harm could be indicated by behaviour that was humiliating or degrading.

Under the framework, a charge involving less serious psychological harm but more serious physical harm would see an indicative sentencing range of between six and 18 months in prison. If harm was both seriously psychological and physical, the range would be between 20 and 30 months in prison.

The courts should adjust each sentence when considering aggravating factors such as the use of a weapon and the abuser's previous convictions, and mitigating factors such as the abuser's remorse.

Finally, the court will then decide which sentences will run consecutively, bearing in mind the duration and frequency of abuse.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Sentencing framework for maid abuse cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe