Woman convicted of maid abuse has sentencing adjourned after she breaks down in court

SINGAPORE - A woman repeatedly tormented her domestic helper between August and September in 2017, subjecting the latter to acts of abuse including squeezing her neck until she had difficulty breathing.

The Singaporean offender, now 43, had also slapped the Myanmar national’s cheeks before telling her: “I will kill you today.”

The offender was initially expected to be sentenced on Thursday, but she broke down in the dock and started sobbing.

District Judge Ong Chin Rhu then halted the proceedings, which resumed about 30 minutes later after the woman’s husband calmed her down and she stopped crying.

Defence lawyer Peter Fernando told the court that his client had been diagnosed with clinical depression and panic disorder. She will now be sentenced on Nov 24.

The judge had earlier convicted the woman of six assault charges involving the maid following a trial. She also found the offender guilty of one count of using criminal force on the helper.

Details about the woman 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 in court during the trial. His age was not disclosed in court documents.

In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said the maid started working in the offender’s Sengkang flat in May 2017. The two women generally had a 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 practice of leaving her dirty clothes on the toilet floor before they were washed.

But on Aug 15, 2017, the offender told her to move the dirty clothes into a cabinet in a prayer room where the maid’s clean clothes were kept.

The maid complied, but explained that by doing so, her clean clothes would become dirty.

The DPP said: “The accused told the victim not to talk back, and then took a blouse from 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 comply with the offender’s instructions to unpack some food for dinner. According to court documents, the offender then pulled the victim’s ear and slapped both sides of her head. She also told the maid: “Don’t be drama.”

On Aug 23, 2017, the offender became angry after the maid threw away some leftover food. The prosecution told the court that she 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 DPP told Judge Ong: “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, she accused the maid of shouting at her son. The Myanmar national denied the accusation, explaining that her voice at the time was just a little louder than usual.

The prosecutor said that when the offender heard this, she slapped the helper’s cheeks, squeezed her neck and shoved her head towards a stove. She also told the maid: “I will kill you today.”

The Myanmar national 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 right upper arm.

On Sept 26, 2017, the maid became unhappy at how the offender had passed her some food and said: “You give it to (a human or a dog)?”

The offender then replied: “Are you a maid or what?”

Court documents stated that the domestic helper was later washing her plate when the offender came forward and repeatedly slapped her head and body.

The Myanmar national went to the prayer room, locked the door and called the police.

The DPP 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 of the call, the accused (could) also be heard screaming at the victim, including yelling ‘how dare you’.”

The maid finally unlocked the door when officers arrived at the flat, and a policewoman found a red palm print on the Myanmar national’s back, corroborating her account that she had been assaulted.

The victim was asked to pack her belongings and was escorted out of the unit.

Court documents stated that the offender’s defence was that of bare denial.

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