ADF v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeAndrew Phang Boon Leong JA
Judgment Date01 December 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGCA 57
Citation[2009] SGCA 57
Plaintiff CounselLee Teck Leng (Lee Associates)
SubjectSentencing,Hurt,Criminal Law,Offences,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing
Docket NumberCriminal Appeals Nos 6 and 12 of
Defendant CounselWinston Cheng Howe Ming, Shahla Iqbal and Vala Muthupalaniappan (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Publication Date11 December 2009
Date01 December 2009

1 December 2009

Judgment reserved.

V K Rajah JA:

Introduction

1 This appeal arises from a decision of the High Court convicting ADF, of physically abusing a domestic maid on several occasions. At the trial below, ADF, faced a total of 13 charges for voluntarily causing hurt, committing rape, carnal intercourse and outraging the modesty of his maid (“the victim”). The victim had been employed as a domestic maid by ADF’s wife. ADF was convicted on five charges for voluntarily causing hurt under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) (“Penal Code”). However, he was acquitted on all the charges pertaining to sexual offending as the Prosecution was unable to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that those offences had been committed.

2 ADF was convicted on the first, ninth, tenth, 12th and 13th charges. In these grounds of decision, I will address only these five charges as they are the ones immediately relevant to this appeal. The said charges are reproduced below.[note: 1]

First Charge:[note: 2]

That you, [ADF]

on or about 29 January 2006, sometime in the morning, at [XXX] Singapore, being the husband of one [ADF’s wife], the employer of a domestic maid, namely one [the victim], did voluntarily cause hurt to the said [the victim], to wit, by knocking her head with your knuckles several times, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Ninth Charge:

That you, [ADF]

on or about 21 April 2006, sometime at night, at [XXX] Singapore, being the husband of one [ADF’s wife], the employer of a domestic maid, namely one [the victim], did voluntarily cause hurt to the said [the victim], to wit, by hitting her head with your hands repeatedly, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Tenth Charge:

That you, [ADF]

on or about 29 April 2006, sometime in the morning, at [XXX], Singapore, being the husband of one [ADF’s wife], the employer of a domestic maid, namely one [the victim], did voluntarily cause hurt to the said [the victim], to wit, by kicking her hips, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

12th charge:

That you, [ADF]

on or about 4 May 2006, sometime at night, at [XXX], Singapore, being the husband of one [ADF’s wife], the employer of a domestic maid, namely one [the victim], did voluntarily cause hurt to the said [the victim], to wit, by kicking her abdomen several times, by pushing her hard on her chest with your leg and slapping her cheeks several times and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

13th charge:

That you, [ADF]

on or about 5 May 2006, sometime in the morning, at [XXX] Singapore, being the husband of one [ADF’s wife], the employer of a domestic maid, namely one [the victim], did voluntarily cause hurt to the said [the victim], to wit, by kicking her abdomen several times, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

3 ADF made a qualified admission of guilt to the first charge. The first charge was for an incident that occurred on the night of 29 January 2006. ADF claimed that the incident happened in the morning of 29 January 2006 and not at night. The trial judge (the “Judge”) subsequently amended the first charge to the morning of 29 January 2006. ADF also pleaded guilty to the ninth charge. ADF pleaded not guilty to the tenth, 12th and 13th charges. The Judge sentenced ADF to three weeks’ imprisonment on the first charge, and to six months’ imprisonment for each of the ninth, tenth, 12th and 13th charges. The sentences for the ninth and 13th charges were ordered to run consecutively. The sentences in the first, 10th and 12th charges were ordered to run concurrently. As a result, the cumulative sentence imposed on ADF was a term of 12 months’ imprisonment. The Judge delivered separate grounds of decision for the convictions ([2008] SGHC 171 (“GD 1”)) and sentences ([2009] SGHC 27 (“GD 2”)).

4 ADF has appealed against the convictions on the tenth, 12th and 13th charges, as well as the sentences imposed on all five charges. The Prosecution has not appealed against the acquittals but has instead appealed against the length of the sentences for all five charges on the ground that they are manifestly inadequate.

Background facts

5 ADF is a 37-year-old police officer holding the rank of staff sergeant. He joined the Singapore Police Force in April 1993. His last posting was at the Intellectual Property Rights Branch, Criminal Investigation Division, as an Investigation Officer.

6 The victim is a 26-year-old Indonesian maid. She started work with ADF and his wife in December 2004. This was her first job in Singapore. She had previously worked as a domestic maid in Indonesia and Malaysia. Her duties were to look after her employers’ infant daughter and to perform household duties. As she was conversant in Mandarin, communications with ADF and his wife were in Mandarin. The victim spoke little English. According to the victim, she did not receive any monthly salary while working for ADF and his wife. The arrangement was that she would be paid only when she returned home.

7 At the onset of the victim’s employment, ADF instructed her to record all the duties she performed and their timing in a notebook. She was required to hang the notebook around her neck using a rubber band. The victim claimed that ADF had also given her another notebook in which she had to record all her mistakes. The entries paint a disturbing picture of an oppressive period of employment experienced by the victim. It will be necessary only to refer to a sampling of entries to get a flavour of the contents. For example, the fifth entry in this book read[note: 3]:

stole and cooked ‘hotdogs’, egg, fish. …

The sixth entry read[note: 4]:

stole and ate chilli, Maggi Mee, white rice …

ADF apparently had instructed the victim that any food she consumed without their permission was tantamount to stealing. As I mentioned earlier, the victim was not paid regularly. She was therefore wholly dependent upon ADF and his wife for her dietary needs. In addition to controlling her meals, ADF, his counsel acknowledged, had affixed three padlocks on the gate to the flat “to control [her] movement”[note: 5].

8 Over time, ADF and his wife became increasingly unhappy with the victim’s work lapses. Counsel for ADF, in his written submissions, acknowledged “that [ADF] had indeed wanted to make the [victim’s] life miserable, but that was mainly through psychological warfare with her”. He, however, maintained that this was provoked and brought about by “numerous unhappy incidents”[note: 6]. The Judge found that the victim was afraid of ADF as he often mistreated her. She testified that on some occasions, when he was unhappy with her, he would threaten “to send her to Batam to be a prostitute” or to send her to prison if she disobeyed him (GD 1 at [13]). While ADF denied making the prostitution threats, he admitted making the imprisonment threats. I need only say, before I narrate the material facts, that these details offering a brief glimpse into her-day-to day life outline a disquieting narrative of an abusive relationship.

9 The offences unexpectedly came to light only on the morning of 5 May 2006. Jeanie Cacanando (“Jeanie”), a Filipino maid working for the occupiers of the flat next to ADF, noticed the victim crying. While conversing with the victim, Jeannie learnt of the abuse that the victim had been enduring. They were, however, unable to communicate effectively because the victim spoke little English, and Jeanie did not speak Bahasa Indonesia or Mandarin. Later, Jeanie persuaded Mdm Lau Eng Teng (“Mdm Lau”), an elderly lady residing in a neighbouring flat, to speak to the victim in Mandarin. As Mdm Lau spoke to the victim, she noticed that her right eye was blue black and the pupil had reddish specks. Upon being prompted, the victim showed her further injuries on her hips. According to Mdm Lau, the victim’s hips had a number of plainly visible blue-black marks. The victim tearfully informed Mdm Lau that she had been both physically and sexually abused by her employer and that her chest and abdomen hurt.[note: 7] Mdm Lau advised the victim to make a police report but the victim declined to do this as she was apprehensive about the consequences. She was fearful that if she did so “her male employer [who] was working in CID … would put her in jail[note: 8]. Disturbed by what she had learnt, Mdm Lau, without consulting the victim, thereafter notified the police about the victim’s predicament, informing that, “the maid was hit by the owner and locked in the house[note: 9].

10 The police officers who responded to Mdm Lau’s complaint found the victim hysterical, trembling, crying and unable to communicate with them. The police were unable to unlock the gate and entered the premises only after ADF arrived. Later, on being interviewed by the police, the victim alleged that during the period 29 January 2006 to 5 May 2006, ADF had both physically and sexually assaulted her. Upon completion of investigations, ADF was charged with 13 offences; see above at [1].

11 On 5 May 2006, the victim was examined and treated at the Emergency Department at National University Hospital. Dr Chan Kim Poh (“Dr Chan”) attended to her. When queried in the course of cross-examination, Dr Chan confirmed that there was no translator present when he attended to her. He spoke to the victim in English and not in Mandarin. Nevertheless, he was certain that she understood him because she nodded and answered his questions. According to Dr Chan’s report, the victim had told him that she was assaulted by her employer on 4 May 2006 and raped by...

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