Couple cleared of maid abuse after payment of $5,000, AGC withdraws charges

Posed photo of physical abuse. A couple escaped prosecution for alleged maid abuse after the charges were withdrawn by the prosecution on Sept 9, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MOHD TAUFIK A KADER
Posed photo of physical abuse. A couple escaped prosecution for alleged maid abuse after the charges were withdrawn by the prosecution on Sept 9, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MOHD TAUFIK A KADER

A couple escaped prosecution for alleged maid abuse after the charges were withdrawn by the prosecution yesterday.

The court heard that Mr Tan Yu Jin and wife Evelyn Phoon Wei Ling paid 32-year-old Ms Gina Astrologio Vilog $5,000 in composition - the practice of making a payment instead of receiving a punishment.

District Judge Lee Poh Choo said she was "surprised" at the decision of the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to drop the charges in a maid abuse case.

She awarded the couple a discharge amounting to an acquittal, adding she did so "reluctantly".

Both were alleged to have hurt Ms Vilog because of her poor work performance. Ms Phoon, 38, had three charges withdrawn. She had been accused of hitting the Filipino on the head and hands with a wooden cane on two occasions in January and February last year.

She had also been charged with kicking the maid in the chest and knocking her on the head with a cordless phone on Feb 4 last year.

That same day, Mr Tan, 36, was said to have hit the maid's head with the cane at their flat in Edgedale Plains.

The couple, who have three children, aged three, five and seven, were represented by lawyer Diana Ngiam. Both were expressionless throughout the proceedings.

Although offenders can be fined up to $5,000, courts usually impose a jail term of up to two years.

In a reply to queries, an AGC spokesman said: "Composition is an agreement to settle a case made between the person or persons accused of an offence and the victim. The deputy public prosecutor can object to the composition if he is of the view that composition would be against the public interest." She added that every case is assessed on its merits, which include the willingness of the victim to testify.

For the present case, she said: "The assessment was that the public interest would not be served by objecting to composition in this case, in particular, because the victim indicated that she did not wish to pursue the matter well before the composition offer was made."

Ms Vilog now works for another family. She was not in court yesterday.

khush@sph.com.sg