SINGAPORE – A woman who repeatedly abused her domestic helper – on one occasion squeezing her neck until she had difficulty breathing – was sentenced to 10 months’ jail and a fine of $1,000 on Thursday.
The offender, who appeared calm in court, was also ordered to pay the victim $5,076 as compensation. She was initially expected to be sentenced on Nov 10, but the case was adjourned after she broke down in the dock and District Judge Ong Chin Rhu halted the proceedings.
Defence lawyer Peter Fernando told the court that his client had been diagnosed with clinical depression and panic disorder.
Judge Ong had convicted the 43-year-old Singaporean offender of six assault charges involving the maid following a trial. She also found her guilty of one count of using criminal force on the helper.
The woman committed the offences between August and September 2017.
Details about her and the 24-year-old maid cannot be disclosed due to a gag order, as one of the witnesses – the offender’s son – was a minor when he testified during the trial. His age was not disclosed in court documents.
In their submissions, deputy public prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Kayal Pillay said the maid started working in the offender’s Sengkang flat in May 2017.
The two women had a generally good relationship at first, but it soured after the offender’s mother returned to India in June 2017.
According to the prosecution, the maid had a habit of leaving her dirty clothes on the toilet floor to be washed later.
On Aug 15, 2017, the offender told her to move the dirty clothes into a cabinet in the prayer room where clean clothes were kept.
The maid complied, but explained that by doing so, the clean clothes would become dirty.
The prosecution said: “The accused told the victim not to talk back, and then took a blouse from (among) the dirty clothes and hit her in the face, causing pain when the button on the blouse hit her cheek.”
The maid was feeling unwell three days later and did not follow the offender’s instructions to unpack some food for dinner.
According to court documents, the offender then pulled the maid’s ear and slapped her on the head after telling her: “Don’t be drama.”
On Aug 23, 2017, the offender became angry with the maid after the latter threw away some leftover food. The prosecutors told the court that the offender then pulled the Myanmar national’s hand.
Two days later, the maid was playing with her employer’s son in the living room when the offender told her to stop. The prosecution said: “However, the victim continued playing with (the boy). Shortly thereafter, the accused went to the victim and squeezed the victim’s neck with her hand and pushed her to a corner.
“The accused squeezed the victim’s neck with enough force that she had difficulty breathing.”
On Aug 29, 2017, the offender accused the maid of shouting at her son. The victim denied the accusation, explaining that her voice at the time was just a little louder than usual. The prosecutors said that when the offender heard this, she slapped the maid’s cheeks, squeezed her neck and shoved her head towards a stove.
They added that she also told the maid: “I will kill you today.”
The victim told her abuser’s husband about her ordeal later that evening, but he replied that his wife would not do so again and that she was “just joking”.
The prosecution said the offender became angry with the maid some time in September 2017 and used an artificial flower to hit her on her right upper arm.
On Sept 26, 2017, the maid was upset after the offender passed her some food and said: “You give it to human or dog?”
The offender then replied: “Are you a maid or what?”
The prosecutors said the victim was later washing her plate when the woman pulled her before repeatedly slapping her on the head and body. The maid later went to the prayer room, locked the door and called the police.
The prosecutors told the court: “As she was making the phone call, the accused and her husband could be heard banging on the door. In the background... the accused (could) also be heard screaming at the victim, including yelling ‘How dare you.’”
The helper unlocked the door when officers arrived at the flat, and a policewoman later found a red palm print on the victim’s back, corroborating her account that she had been assaulted.
The maid was asked to pack her belongings and later escorted out of the unit.