Ang Lilian v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSee Kee Oon J
Judgment Date24 May 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] SGHC 119
Plaintiff CounselFoo Cheow Ming (Templars Law LLC)
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeal No 9208 of 2016/01
Date24 May 2017
Hearing Date22 March 2017
Subject MatterOffences,Hurt,Criminal Law,Domestic maid abuse
Published date31 May 2017
Defendant CounselLu Zhuoren, John and Stephanie Koh (Attorney-General's Chambers)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Citation[2017] SGHC 119
Year2017
See Kee Oon J: Introduction

The appellant claimed trial to eleven charges of voluntarily causing hurt to a domestic maid (“the victim”) under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“Penal Code”) and one charge of using criminal force under s 352 of the Penal Code. The District Judge convicted the appellant on the eleven charges under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code but acquitted the appellant on the charge under s 352 of the Penal Code. The District Judge’s Grounds of Decision (“GD”) is reported as Public Prosecutor v Ang Lilian [2016] SGMC 55.

For the eleven charges under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code, the appellant was sentenced to imprisonment terms ranging from two weeks to six months per charge:

Charge Number Sentence
C1A: MCN 900287/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C2A: MCN 900288/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C3B: MCN 900289/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C4B: MCN 900290/14 6 months’ imprisonment
C5A: MCN 900300/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C6A: MCN 900301/14 2 weeks’ imprisonment
C7A: MCN 900302/14 6 months’ imprisonment
C8A: MCN 900303/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C9B: MCN 900304/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C10A: MCN 900305/14 2 months’ imprisonment
C12A: MCN 900307/14 4 months’ imprisonment

The District Judge ordered the imprisonment terms for MCN 900288/14, MCN 900290/14 and MCN 900302/14 to run consecutively. This resulted in an aggregate sentence of 14 months’ imprisonment. The appellant was also ordered by the District Judge to pay S$3,150 (in default three weeks’ imprisonment) as compensation to the victim.

I dismissed the appeals against both conviction and sentence. I found that an aggregate sentence of 16 months’ imprisonment more adequately met the justice of the case. I therefore ordered the sentences in MCN 900290/2014, 900302/2014, and 900307/2014 to run consecutively. I now set out the reasons for my decision.

Background facts

The appellant was a 44 year-old Singaporean female at the time of the trial. The victim was a 27 year-old female Myanmar national, who had worked as a domestic maid at the appellant’s home. The victim was employed by the appellant from 12 January 2013 to 7 May 2013. Prior to working for the appellant, the victim had worked as a domestic maid in two other households in Singapore.

Charges

The brief particulars of the eleven charges on appeal were as follows (in chronological order): In February 2013: C1A and C2A: the appellant had on two occasions knocked the victim’s head three times with her fist. C3B: the appellant dragged the victim to the toilet, sprayed water at her eyes with a water hose, and slapped her more than once. Sometime in March 2013: C4B: the appellant used a three-pin plug to hit the victim’s head once, pulled her hair, threw her onto the floor, and slapped her multiple times. In April 2013: C5A: the appellant slapped the victim’s face about 10 times. C6A: the appellant dragged the victim by her hair into the bathroom and sprayed water on her eyes with the shower head. C7A: the appellant used a dustpan to hit the victim’s head multiple times. C8A: the appellant used a towel to hit the victim multiple times on her face and body. C12A: the appellant used a cane to hit the victim’s head multiple times. In May 2013: C9B: on 1 May 2013 at about 6am, the appellant hit the victim’s head once with her fist. C10A: on 1 May 2013 at about 5pm, the appellant slapped the victim about three times, pushed her to the floor, and kicked her buttock once.

First information report and follow-up police investigations

On 7 May 2013 at 8.11pm, Ms Santhi Sithirai (“Ms Santhi”), the appellant’s neighbour who resided in the apartment unit next door, went to the Marine Parade Neighbourhood Police Centre to make a Police report. The first information report stated the following:

I THINK MY NEIGHBOUR MAID IS BEING ABUSED.

Police Sgt Mohamad Danial Bin Mohamad Nazali (“Sgt Danial”) responded to Ms Santhi’s report. When he arrived at the appellant’s home, Sgt Danial observed that the victim had a bandage over her left eye. He then called the victim to the house gate area and asked her what had happened to her left eye but she did not reply. Sgt Danial then decided to bring the victim out of the house to the staircase landing. At the staircase landing, Sgt Danial asked the victim, “Did you[r] employer beat you?”. The victim nodded her head.

Sgt Danial proceeded to ask the victim “[w]hen was the last time your employer beat you?”. The victim responded “2 weeks ago”. He then asked the victim to lift her bandage and saw that the victim’s left eye was swollen and that she had bruises on the left and right side of her face. Sgt Danial testified that the victim was crying, shivering and appeared to be “scared and helpless” after she told him that the appellant had beaten her. Sgt Danial then called for an ambulance. Sgt Danial’s evidence was not challenged by the Defence at the trial below.

Medical examination of the victim

The victim was sent to Changi General Hospital where she was examined by two doctors, Dr Chen Yu Jia (“Dr Chen”) and Dr Hah Yan Yee (“Dr Hah”). Dr Chen’s medical report on the victim dated 14 May 2013 stated the following:

The [victim] was seen by Dr Chen Yujia at the Accident and Emergency Department on 7/5/2013. She was registered at 2117 hours.

[The victim] was allegedly assaulted by her employer a week ago. She complained of slight pain over frontal area.

On examination, the following findings were noted:

Left and right infraorbital bruise seen. Left side 3cm in diameter. Right side 1cm in diameter. Left eye – conjunctiva injected 1cm bruise seen over anterior part of neck.

X-ray of facial bone: no obvious fracture or dislocation.

Diagnosis: conjunctival disorders.

She was discharged.

In view of the injected conjunctiva and visual acuity reduce in left eye, she was referred to ENT specialist clinic.

Dr Chen also recorded the following details in her clinical notes: The victim claimed that the appellant had used her hands, legs and water bottle to hit her; The victim claimed that she had been abused everyday by the appellant; and The latest episode had allegedly occurred one week before the medical examination.

At the trial, Dr Hah confirmed that she had seen the victim on 7 May 2013 upon Dr Chen’s referral. Dr Hah’s findings were contained in a report compiled by Dr David Justin Hernstadt (“Dr David’s medical report”) dated 16 October 2013. Dr David compiled the report on the basis of Dr Hah’s clinical notes because Dr Hah had left the employ of Changi General Hospital by the time the report was written. Dr David’s medical report stated the following:

[The victim] presented with bilateral periorbital haematomas and left blurring of vision following alleged assault consistent with blunt force trauma one week ago.

...Bilateral periorbital haematomas were noted, that was worse on the left as compared to the right…

...Anterior segment examination found bilateral resolving subconjunctival haemorrhages, worse on the left as compared to the right…

She was reviewed again two more times, first on 16 May 2013 and again on 09 July 2013, by which time the periorbital haemotaoma (sic), swelling and subconjunctival haemorrhages had resolved… She was then discharged from our service.

Further police investigations

After the medical examination at Changi General Hospital, the victim was brought back to the Bedok Police Division for further investigations. There, she was interviewed by the Senior Investigation Officer on duty, Police Sgt Ismail Bin Ali (“Sgt Ismail”), who observed that the victim looked “quite scared” because she was “trembling a bit”.

On the afternoon of the next day, 8 May 2013, the victim was brought back to the appellant’s house to retrieve her belongings and the items which the appellant had allegedly used to hurt her. During the visit, the Police seized a cane, a dustpan, and a three-pin cable plug. The Police did not manage to retrieve the towel that was mentioned in charge C8A (see [6(c)(iv)] above). Sgt Ismail, who accompanied the victim to the appellant’s house, testified that, during the visit, the appellant had raised her voice at the Police officers and had accused the victim of lying. Sgt Ismail also testified that the victim appeared “to be very scared” during the visit to the appellant’s house.

Decision below

The District Judge convicted the appellant on eleven charges of voluntarily causing hurt to the victim under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code. In convicting the appellant, the District Judge accepted the victim’s account of the incidents of abuse and also found that: The inconsistencies in the victim’s evidence were either immaterial or could be explained: The victim’s inability to specify dates and times did not shake her credibility; and The inconsistencies in the victim’s account of the acts of abuse in the charges were immaterial. The victim’s failure to seek help was not a critical factor that should be held against her; The evidence of Ms Santhi, Sgt Danial, and Sgt Ismail were corroborative of the victim’s evidence; and The medical phenomenon of gravitational seepage could possibly explain why the victim had suffered bruising on her eyes even though her eyes were never directly assaulted.

The District Judge also rejected the appellant’s contention that the victim had fabricated her evidence in order to engineer a termination of employment with the appellant.

Appellant’s case

On appeal, the appellant’s case was largely focused on the alleged inconsistencies in the victim’s evidence and the inadequacy of medical evidence. Specifically, the appellant contended that the District Judge had erred in...

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