Couple who starved maid jailed

Chong and her husband Lim failed to comply with work pass conditions and provide adequate food to Madam Gawidan (above) for 15 months, causing her weight to fall from 49kg to 29.4kg.
Chong and her husband Lim failed to comply with work pass conditions and provide adequate food to Madam Gawidan (right) for 15 months, causing her weight to fall from 49kg to 29.4kg.PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW, ST FILE
A couple were sentenced to jail yesterday for starving their maid until she weighed only 29.4kg. Housewife Chong Sui Foon, 48, got three months while her husband, Lim Choon Hong, 48, was handed three weeks in jail and fined $10,000. The prosecution,
A couple were sentenced to jail yesterday for starving their maid until she weighed only 29.4kg. Housewife Chong Sui Foon, 48, got three months while her husband, Lim Choon Hong, 48, was handed three weeks in jail and fined $10,000. The prosecution, which had earlier pushed for the maximum jail term of one year, will be appealing. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Wife gets 3 months while husband gets 3 weeks and a fine; DPP plans to appeal

The couple who starved a maid and caused her weight to plummet from 49kg to 29.4kg was sentenced to jail, but the saga is far from over.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet said the prosecution will be filing an appeal after District Judge Low Wee Ping sentenced housewife Chong Sui Foon, 48, to three months in jail yesterday.

Her husband, Lim Choon Hong, also 48, was sentenced to three weeks in jail and fined $10,000.

DPP Tan, who had earlier urged the judge to sentence the couple to the maximum jail term of a year behind bars, told the court yesterday that the couple had shown a complete lack of remorse.

He acknowledged that the couple had paid $20,000 to their former maid, Filipina Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, as part of a settlement agreement which Madam Gawidan's lawyers had requested on her behalf. The lawyers were not named.

But DPP Tan added: "The payment of $20,000... does not emanate from genuine remorse, but is motivated by the hope of obtaining a lower sentence and of settling once and for all the civil claims that the victim has against the accused persons."

He also said they had originally claimed trial before pleading guilty to their offence last year.

The couple's lawyer, Mr Raymond Lye, said both of them agreed to the settlement and terms without making a single amendment. The terms were not mentioned in court.

He said: "Agreeing to Madam Gawidan's request in full without negotiation, including the terms of the agreement as drafted by her lawyers, shows remorse and regret."

Judge Low said the couple failed to comply with the work pass conditions and provide adequate food to Madam Gawidan for 15 months, between Jan 23, 2013, and April 18, 2014.

He told Chong: "Depriving (Madam Gawidan) of food for one year and three months is extremely aggravating."

But Judge Low said the couple were remorseful and did not intentionally seek to starve Madam Gawidan, now aged 41.

Madam Gawidan was given two meals a day while working for the couple, who have three children between 17 and 22 years old. The meals largely comprised plain white bread, tap water when she asked for a drink, and instant noodles. Chong did not allow her to buy food or eat any other food at home.

She finally fled from the couple's eighth-storey apartment at The Boulevard Residence condominium in Cuscaden Walk on April 19, 2014.

On March 23 last year, Lim, a freelance trader, pleaded guilty to failing to provide Madam Gawidan with adequate food.

Chong pleaded guilty to abetting him. They are now out on bail of $3,000 each.

For committing the offence, they can each be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.

In a statement after the sentencing, the Ministry of Manpower said the couple have been permanently barred from employing maids.

Madam Gawidan is now working for another household here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2017, with the headline 'Couple who starved maid jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe