Ho Yean Theng Jill v Public Prosecutor

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeTerence Chua Seng Leng
Judgment Date14 July 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 25
Citation[2003] SGMC 25
Published date01 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselPeter Ong Lip Cheng (M/S Ong Lip Cheng & Rajendran/ M/s Christopher Bridges),Gregory Emmanuel (M/S Ong Lip Cheng & Rajendran/ M/s Christopher Bridges)
Defendant CounselGlenn Seah (Attorney-General's Chambers)

1 The Appellant faced a total of five charges under Section 323 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224. The charges all dealt with various alleged assaults on one Sartini Binti Warsono, a domestic maid, the first three charges taking place on 10 March 2002 and the last two on 14 March 2002, respectively. All the assaults were alleged to have taken place at the Appellant's premises at Pasir Ris. Although the victim was a domestic maid, the Prosecution could not prefer a charge read with Section 73 of the Penal Code because the actual employer of Sartini was the Appellant’s ex-husband, who no longer resided with them, and hence Sartini was technically not part of the employer’s household at the time. However, this still had implications on sentencing, which will be seen at the end of this judgment,

2 The Appellant claimed trial to the charges. At the end of the trial, and upon hearing submissions from both Prosecution and Defence, the Appellant was convicted on all the charges.

The Prosecution Case

3 The Prosecution called seven witnesses. They were as follows:

PW1 – Doctor Siow Yeen Kiat
PW2 – Sartini Binti Warsono
PW3 – Kusniatun
PW4 – Staff Sergeant Loh Yeow Chuan
PW5 – Staff Sergeant Sani
PW6 – Senior Station Inspector Ong Kim Moon
PW7 – Assistant Superintendent Tham Thian Keong

All witnesses gave evidence from the witness box.

PW1's evidence

5 Doctor Siow Yeen Kiat was a Medical Officer in Changi General Hospital, Accident & Emergency Department in March 2002. He was the Medical Officer who examined Sartini on 15 March 2002 and tendered the medical report that he prepared on the injuries he found (Exhibit P6). He also confirmed that the injuries he noted in Exhibit P6 were those that were shown in the photographs taken of Sartini (Exhibits P7-P11). He stated that the scratch marks were consistent with Sartini's claim that someone had scratched her. However, he could not find any injury on her head and was unable to tell if any particular item caused the scratches, nor was he able to give an opinion on the amount of force needed to inflict such injuries. He did, however, concede that it was possible that nails or a door key caused the scratches.

6 Under cross-examination he agreed with Defence counsel that a person with a lower platelet level in her blood supply would bruise easily and that he did not to a blood test on the victim. He stated that the scratches would have been inflicted within the last few days, and stated it was possible that they were inflicted three days prior. He also agreed that they could have been the result of a scuffle and that he could not exclude the possibility of self-infliction. Finally, he stated that Sartini did not complain of loss of vision or vomiting.

PW2's evidence

7 The Appellant's husband first employed Sartini Binti Warsono, an Indonesian national, on 8 October 1999. Her duties in the household were to wash clothes, mop and cook as well as look after the Appellant's infant daughter. Initially the Appellant, her husband and the daughter occupied the flat, but six months after Sartini started working there, the Appellant's husband moved out of the house following the breakdown of the marriage. Sartini's work permit was still under the name of the Appellant's husband, but she continued to work for the Appellant. Subsequently, the Appellant's mother and sister moved into the flat.

8 Sartini stated that she initially liked working in the flat, but after the Appellant's husband left; the Appellant began to scold her frequently. On 10 March 2002, according to Sartini, the Appellant woke up, saw that the living room table was dirty and began to scold Sartini. Following that, the Appellant took a bamboo pole normally used for the drying of clothes and hit Sartini's hand twice with it, inflicting some red marks. Sartini held the part of the hand that was hit and said that it was painful. She could not remember the time this occurred but stated that it was in the late morning, before lunch, which was normally taken at noon.

9 Ten minutes after she was hit with the stick, Sartini was wiping the living room table. While she was wiping it, the Appellant continued to scold her. Sartini then requested to be returned to Indonesia, which angered the Appellant. The Appellant then took the keys to the front door from on top of the piano and scratched Sartini on her face. Thereafter, she replaced the keys on the piano. Sartini said she felt pain, holding her cheeks to protect herself, and said again that she wanted to go home. Under cross-examination, Sartini stated that this was not the first time she had asked to be sent home, but agreed that previously the Appellant had not reacted by taking the keys and scratching her.

10 Fifteen minutes later (under cross-examination Sartini said it was about ten minutes), Sartini took the keys and wanted to go out of the flat to buy food, she stated that the Appellant pulled at her clothes and asked her to go back in, saying that there was a lot of food in the house that Sartini could eat. The Appellant then took a high-heeled shoe (which Sartini subsequently claimed belonged to the Appellant's grandmother) from the shoe rack near the front door and hit Sartini on the top of the head with it about five times. Sartini stated that she could not confirm which part of the shoe hit her, although she felt a sharp pain. Sartini stated she put her hand to the top of her head and said it was painful, and also to shield herself from being hit again. Also, according to Sartini, she felt pain, headache and suffered some swelling on her head, which subsided after three days. After that, Sartini went to take a shower, but stated she did not wash her face because she felt pain. The Appellant told Sartini later in English, "I'm sorry." Sartini assumed that this was an apology in relation to the assault.

11 Sartini did not speak to anyone about the incident on 10 March because she was afraid of going out, as the Appellant was still angry. She also stated that she was still frightened that the Appellant would scold her and if the Appellant knew she was calling people "she would definitely get angry" (Notes of Evidence, p. 21).

12 On the evening of 14 March 2002, at about 11p.m., the Appellant asked Sartini while in the living room whether she had washed the toilet in the master bedroom. Sartini replied that she had cleaned the room but not the toilet, as she had not had time. The Appellant then went into the master bedroom, and then called Sartini in to inspect it. After that the Appellant then took a plastic basket, which was used to keep her daughter's toys in but at that moment was empty, to hit Sartini on the head. According to Sartini, the impact was not very hard, but basket broke. Sartini stated that she kept quiet and did not know what to do. Subsequently (Sartini claims it was eight minutes later) The Appellant scolded her and scratched Sartini's face with her right hand, while Sartini tried to shield herself with both hands. Sartini stated that she only felt pain from the basket and did not sustain any injuries. Sartini also stated that the Appellant's mother later asked her why her face was "like that", and Sartini replied that the Appellant had assaulted her.

13 On 15 March 2002, Sartini stated that she woke up, washed the clothes and cleaned the house in the morning. Then at about 9.00a.m. she left the house while the rest of the household were still sleeping. The Appellant's sister had already gone to work. Sartini left a note in English behind, stating, "I'm sorry ma'am, I have no choice I have to leave." She then called up her aunt, Kusniatun, using a public telephone at a void deck three blocks away, and told her that the Appellant had assaulted her and also had not paid her. Kusniatun then told Sartini to come over to "her place", or rather where Kusniatun was employed also as a domestic maid. She then took a taxi there.

14 After reaching Kusniatun's place of employment, Sartini stated that Kusniatun advised her to sleep for a while but Sartini found that she could not despite trying, because she was frightened. When asked in cross-examination why she was frightened, Sartini stated, "Because I ran away and ma'am will definitely angry and will scold me." Sartini also said that she spoke to Kusniatun's employer's sister, who asked what happened to her face, and Sartini told her that the Appellant had assaulted her. Kusniatun's employer's sister then tried contacting the Indonesian Embassy but it was closed. She then called the police, who arrived later and took Sartini to the police station.

15 Under cross-examination she was asked why she continued to stay with the Appellant if she had been unhappy after the Appellant's husband had left the household. Sartini stated that she was asked to continue her contract and that the Appellant had "promised she will not hit me again" (NE, p 36). She also stated that she did not have her agency's contact number, nor did she know at the time what the name of the agency was. Subsequently, she stated that she was afraid to go to the agent's place because the Appellant would scold her. She repeated that she was afraid that she would not know what to do as she was very frightened of the Appellant, and that the Appellant would confront her and ask her why she went to the agent. She then said did not call the agent because she did not know the name of the agent. Sartini stated she did know where the agency was, but when asked why she did not just go there, she replied that she did not think about that.

16 Sartini was also asked why she did not mention to the examining doctor that a bamboo stick had hit her. She explained that since it had only been a red mark and it had healed, she did not inform the doctor. She also stated that when the Appellant was not at home she had strict instructions not to use the telephone. She admitted calls were made to Indonesia (Exhibit D1), but these were the presence of the...

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