Boss jailed for maid abuse

She joined in mum's attack on helper; she also kept victim locked in apartment

Chua committed both offences while under a mandatory treatment order for paranoid schizophrenia.
Chua committed both offences while under a mandatory treatment order for paranoid schizophrenia.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A woman who assaulted her domestic helper and kept her locked in her sister's Bukit Timah condo was sentenced to two months' jail yesterday.

Chua Siew Peng, 44, who is jobless, was convicted last August of wrongfully confining Filipina Jonna Memeje Muegue at Maplewoods on Oct 30, 2012, and slapping her the previous night.

Chua's 75-year-old mother Lum Wai Lui had assaulted Ms Muegue for eating salmon not meant for her. Chua then entered the toilet and joined in by pulling the maid's hair and slapping her repeatedly.

Ms Muegue, now 27, escaped the following day by climbing out of the sixth-floor window, scaling the ledge and jumping onto the rooftop of the floor below - breaking her feet in the process.

Ms Muegue testified that Lum abused her between March/April 2012 and October that year by punching, slapping, kicking and hitting her head against a wall and pouring bleach on her hands and arms. She also said she was underfed and lost 10kg.

She said she was not allowed to speak to anyone apart from the five members of the household and could not use her mobile phone or leave the unit as the main door and gate were locked.

Lum, a retired radiograph and medicine technician, was given 21 months' probation after being convicted of maid abuse.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang submitted that although the wrongful confinement related to Oct 30, the maid had been wrongfully confined for a much longer period before that. "As a result of the wrongful confinement and horrendous assault she suffered the night before at the hands of the accused's mother and the accused, the victim risked life and limb in her escape," he said.

He sought at least six months' jail for wrongful confinement and three weeks for causing hurt.

District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam said Chua committed both offences while under a mandatory treatment order. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Chua had a long history of defaulting on treatment and full compliance with medications, resulting in relapses and admissions to the Institute of Mental Health, the court heard.

However she was not suffering a relapse at the time of the offences.

Chua, represented by Mr Jonathan Cho, has five outstanding charges fixed for a pre-trial conference on May 27, the same day as her sister's maid abuse charge. Kathleen Chua Siew Wei, 42, was initially acquitted of slapping the maid but the High Court overturned her acquittal and ordered a retrial.

Chua is considering an appeal and was allowed to defer sentence until Wednesday.

In another court, Malaysian Chong Yee Ka, 32, a permanent resident, was sentenced to three weeks' jail on two counts of maid abuse.

She admitted punching Myanmar national Aye Moe Khaing, 27, in the face, slapping her, pulling her hair, kicking her and knocking her head against a wall at her Rivervale Walk flat in April last year. She is appealing against the sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Boss jailed for maid abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe