Farida Begam d/o Mohd Artham v Public Prosecutor; Public Prosecutor v Farida Begam d/o Mohd Artham

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeGilbert Low Teik Seang
Judgment Date28 August 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGMC 33
Citation[2001] SGMC 33
Publication Date19 September 2003

JUDGMENT:

Grounds of Decision

1. The accused, Farida Begam d/o Mohd Artham ("Farida"), faced a total of 4 charges in her trial before me in PS 4120/2000, PS 4121/2000, PS 4122/2000 and PS 4123/2000. These charges related to breaches under section 323 read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt to her domestic maid, one Miss Khusniati Habib ("Khusniati") at 496E Tampines Ave 9 #02-524 Singapore in the third week of July 1999, first week of August 1999, 3rd week of August 1999 and on 30 August 1999 respectively. The charges proceeded at the start of the trial are reproduced as follows:

"PS 4120/2000 (Charge P1A)

You … are charged that you, some time in the 3rd week of July 1999, at Blk 496E Tampines Avenue 9 #02-524, Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Khusniati Habib (female, 20 years of age), did voluntarily cause hurt to her, to wit, by slapping her twice on the face, and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 323 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224) punishable under the aforesaid section read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code (Chapter 224).


PS 4121/2000 (Charge P2A)

You … are charged that you, some time in the 1st week of August 1999, at Blk 496E Tampines Avenue 9 #02-524, Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Khusniati Habib (female, 20 years of age), did voluntarily cause hurt to her, to wit, by slapping her several times on the face, and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 323 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224) punishable under the aforesaid section read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code (Chapter 224).


PS 4122/2000 (Charge P3A)

You … are charged that you, some time in the 3rd week of August 1999, at Blk 496E Tampines Avenue 9 #02-524, Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Khusniati Habib (female, 20 years of age), did voluntarily cause hurt to her, to wit, by pulling her hair with your hands and hitting her head against the wall, and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 323 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224) punishable under the aforesaid section read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code (Chapter 224).


PS 4123/2000 (Charge P4A)

You … are charged that you, on 30 August 1999, at Blk 496E Tampines Avenue 9 #02-524, Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Khusniati Habib (female, 20 years of age), did voluntarily cause hurt to her, to wit, by hitting her head, face and chest with a wooden scrub and a slipper, and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 323 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224) punishable under the aforesaid section read with section 73(2) of the Penal Code (Chapter 224)."

2. At the end of the trial, I acquitted Farida on the first three charges in PS 4120/2000, PS 4121/2000 and PS 4122/2000 and convicted her on the last charge in PS 4123/2000. I imposed an imprisonment term of three months on her for this last charge. Being dissatisfied with both her conviction and sentence for this charge, she filed notices of appeal in MA149/2001/01 and MA149/2001/02 respectively. The prosecution, being dissatisfied with my sentence for the same charge, filed a notice of appeal against sentence in MA149/2001/03. There has been no appeal against the acquittals in the first three charges.

PROSECUTION'S CASE

3. Khusniati started work as a domestic maid at Farida's household in 496E Tampines Ave 9 #02-524 Singapore on 13 July 1999. In her testimony before me, she related four incidents where she was assaulted by Farida, her employer, whilst working at the apartment. First, some time during the third week of July 1999 at about 11 am, she testified that Farida slapped her twice with the right hand while she was in the kitchen. The reason being that she was too slow in cutting the vegetables. Farida scolded her and said that she was like a dog. Second, some time during the first week of August 1999, whilst Khusniati was cleaning the kitchen, Farida scolded her by saying that she did not know how to take care of the children and proceeded to slap her more than two times. Khusniati kept quiet and did not say anything in reply. Third, some time during the third week of August 1999, whilst Khusniati was using the toilet, Farida called her and she rushed out quickly. As a result of which, she forgot to flush the toilet. Upon discovering that Khusniati forgot to flush the toilet, Farida pulled her hair and knocked the back part of her head against the living room wall. Farida then said that she was like a dog as she was dirty.

4. The fourth and last incident occurred in the early morning of 30 August 1999. According to Khusniati, she could remember the date of this fourth incident because it was the serious one that happened to her. At 7.30 am, after cleaning the bird-cage outside the apartment and then scrubbing the floor there, Farida confronted her and said that everything was wrong. Farida then used the pole end of the long brush (Exhibit P7) which Khusniati was using to scrub the floor to hit her stomach, her back, her shoulder and her head. After that, Farida took a slipper (Exhibit P9) and used it to hit Khusniati's face on both cheeks and the forehead four to five times. In cross-examination, Khusniati testified that she was hit with very hard blows for this last incident. However, she did not scream out in pain and just sat there quietly. She did not make any noise because she was afraid that Farida would go on beating her if she did so. Neither did she cry out for help for the same reason. After Farida stopped beating her, Farida showed her how to use the brush to scrub the floor and Khusniati complied with her instructions (page 40 of the Notes of Evidence).

5. Later in the morning, Khusniati took the Farida's daughter to school. When she was outside the school, one of her friends saw the state she was in and suggested that she should make a police report. Together with her friends, they approached one passerby, Madam Rugayah binte Idris (PW3). According to Madam Rugayah, Khusniati was crying and pleading to her for help. Madam Rugayah then brought her to the Tampines North Neighbourhood Police Post where she made a police report at 1.30 pm. Upon application by the defence, this police report made by Khusniati at the neighbourhood police post was admitted as Exhibit D1, in the course of her cross-examination.

6. Following from this police report, Khusniati was brought to Bedok Police Division at 2 pm on the same day and at 3 pm, the initial investigating officer for the case, Sgt Sani bin Tugiman (PW1) directed that photographs of her injuries be taken. These photographs taken on 30 August 1999 at 3 pm were admitted and marked collectively as Exhibit P5. In the evening of the same day, Sgt Sani together with the scene of crime officer and a woman escorting officer took Khusniati to Farida's apartment where she identified the items in the apartment which were used to inflict her injuries. The items identified by Khusniati were a brush with a long pole (Exhibit P7), a bamboo hook (Exhibit P8) and a slipper (Exhibit P9).

7. The police officers then took her to Changi General Hospital where she was examined by Dr Khor Chong Chneah (PW2) at about 9.40 pm. I will deal with Dr Khor's evidence in greater detail later. Sgt Sani also testified that when she was escorted to the hospital, she had the injuries shown on the photographs in Exhibit P5 (taken at 3 pm earlier) on her. After her medical examination, Khusniati was brought back to Bedok Police Division where she spent the night at the holding bay there.

8. The next day, on 31 August 1999 at 11 am, when Sgt Sani went to the holding bay to see her, he observed a change in appearance on Khusniati's face. Areas around the eyes had darkened. It was at this juncture that Sgt Sani discovered that Khusniati also had injuries on her hands. He then directed further photographs of Khusniati's face and hands be taken. These photographs taken in the morning of 31 August 1999 were admitted collectively as Exhibit P6.


EVIDENCE OF THE EXAMINING MEDICAL OFFICER

9. The medical report on Khusniati by Dr Khor Chong Chneah who examined her on the night of 30 August 1999 was admitted and marked as Exhibit P11. Dr Khor's clinical notes on her were also admitted and marked as Exhibit P10. In his medical report (Exhibit P11), Dr Khor noted the following injuries:

1. hematoma, 1.5 cm diameter X 3 lesions over the scalp
2. bruise over the left ear pinna
3. bruise, each 2 cm diameter, over both the right and left temple
4. bilateral periorbital swelling
5. bruise, 1 X 2 cm, over the lower right eyelid
6. swelling and bruise over the nasal bridge
7. bruise, 2 X 3 cm, over both the dorsum of the hand over the knuckles
8. superficial cut, 1 cm long, over the right big toe
9. bruise, 2 X 4 cm over the back of right shoulder
10. perforated ear drum

10. In Court, Dr Khor testified that injuries 3, 4, 5 and 6 could be seen from photograph 1 of Exhibit P5 and as for injury 7, from photograph 2 of P6. He also testified that all the injuries, except for the perforated ear-drum, could have been caused within one day. In coming to this conclusion, he elaborated that if these injuries had occurred more than one day, there would usually be more bruises. He was of the view that the injuries set out in his medical report were mostly likely to have been caused by a blunt object. With regard to the marks on the forearm as seen in photograph 2 of P6, he opined that they might be old injuries. Dr Khor also explained that the darkened areas around the eye region as seen on the following day in photograph 1 of P6 are caused by blood tracking down from the swelling on the forehead downwards to the region of the eyelids. The region darkens because of the body breaking down the blood and consequently changing its colour to that seen in bruises.

11. In his clinical notes (Exhibit P10), Dr Khor noted that the injuries were not...

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