Jail term tripled for employer who locked maid in condo

Chua Siew Peng, 45, at the State Courts on April 20, 2015.
Chua Siew Peng, 45, at the State Courts on April 20, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A jobless woman who slapped her maid and kept the Filipina locked in her sister's Bukit Timah condo on Friday (May 26) had her original two-month jail term tripled to six months by the High Court.

This came after an appeal by prosecutors for a heavier sentence for Chua Siew Peng, 45, the first employer in Singapore to be convicted for wrongfully confining a maid.

At the time of the offences in October 2012, Chua was staying at her sister's sixth-floor Maplewoods apartment, with their mother and her sister's family.

On Oct 30, 2012, the maid employed by Chua, Ms Jonna Memeje Muegue, now 28, escaped the flat by climbing out of a window. She fractured her feet when she landed on the roof of the apartment one floor below.

Ms Muegue, who worked for the family for 10 months, said she ran way because she could no longer tolerate the physical abuse from Chua, her sister Kathleen Chua Siew Wei, and their mother, Lum Wai Lui, whom she knew as 'Popo', the Mandarin word for grandmother.

The night before she ran away, Lum, now 76, punished Ms Muegue for eating salmon not meant for her.

She punched the maid, slapped her, slammed her head against the wall and poured bleach on her body and hands.

Chua joined in, pulling the maid's hair and slapping her repeatedly.

In February last year, Lum, a retired radiographer and medicine technician, was given 21 months' probation for abusing the maid.

In May last year (16), Chua was sentenced to two months' jail after being found guilty of one count of wrongful confinement and one count of causing hurt to the maid.

She appealed against her conviction and sentence. The prosecution cross-appealed, arguing for a heavier sentence for the wrongful confinement charge.

During the appeal hearing in February, Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhuo Wenzhao argued that Ms Muegue had been wrongfully confined for an extremely lengthy period of 11 months.

He argued that the maid had been deliberately cut off from the outside world, as she was not given any off days, deprived of a SIM card for her mobile phone, and was not allowed to talk to anyone besides Chua's family.

Chua's lawyer, Mr Quek Mong Hua, argued that while the maid did not have her own keys to the flat, she knew that a set of keys was always left in the living room.

Yesterday, Justice Chan Seng Onn dismissed Chua's appeal and allowed the prosecution's appeal.

He increased Chua's jail term for wrongful confinement from two months to 21 weeks, which was ordered to run consecutively with her three-week term for causing hurt, making it a total of 24 weeks.