Charges withdrawn for teacher, husband accused of maid abuse

SINGAPORE - After more than two years of living with multiple maid abuse charges looming over them, a primary school teacher and her husband can finally heave a sigh of relief as all charges against them were withdrawn following 12 days of trial.

Last week, Ms Nachammai Selva Nachiappan, 40, and Mr Arunachalam Muthiah, 43, were each given a discharge amounting to an acquittal.

This means the Singaporean couple cannot be charged again with the same offences.

Even though the couple declined to be interviewed, they told The Straits Times through their lawyer, Mr Kalidass Murugaiyan, on Sept 2 that they were glad and relieved with the outcome.

The lawyer, who has his own practice, said: "They wish to put this episode behind them and keenly look forward to moving on with their lives.

"(Ms Nachammai) is grateful for the support she has received. Her service was not interrupted. She is still a teacher at the same school."

Mr Kalidass also said that before the charges were withdrawn, the prosecution reviewed the matter following the maid's testimony in court.

The prosecutor then applied for the couple to be given the discharge, and it was granted by District Judge Eddy Tham.

In a statement to ST on Wednesday, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said that as part of the prosecution process, the prosecution will continually assess new evidence that arises from investigators, the defence or witnesses.

Without revealing any details, the AGC spokesman said: "In this case, the prosecution decided to apply for a (discharge amounting to an acquittal) because it assessed, based on new evidence that emerged during the trial, that a withdrawal of the charges was warranted.

"This evidence was not made available to the police during investigations or in the lead-up to the trial."

Ms Nachammai and Mr Arunachalam had been accused of abusing domestic helper Hla Hla Myaing between June 25 and Aug 2, 2018.

Both of them were charged in court in 2020.

Ms Nachammai, who had claimed trial to five charges, was accused of acts including hitting the Myanmar national's face with a hanger and throwing a hot ladle at her.

Mr Arunachalam, who had faced three charges, was accused of kicking the maid and punching her.

On the first day of their joint trial in May last year, Ms Hla Hla Myaing, then 37, had testified that she worked for the family who lived in a condominium near Sembawang Road. It was her first job in Singapore, and she was working for another household when she took the stand last year.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) had earlier told ST: "MOE takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline, including dismissal from service."

Mr Kalidass said that Ms Nachammai's service was not interrupted.

For using an instrument to assault a maid, an offender can be jailed for up to 10½ years and fined or caned.

Male offenders over 50 years old and female offenders cannot be caned.

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