Ong Ting Ting v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date28 July 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 156
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 241 of 2003
Date28 July 2004
Year2004
Published date31 July 2004
Plaintiff CounselWee Pan Lee (Wee Tay and Lim)
Citation[2004] SGHC 156
Defendant CounselChristopher Ong Siu Jin (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Principles applicable in appeal against findings of fact,Appeal,Whether sentence manifestly excessive,Appeals,Sentencing,Mitigation,Whether trial judge's findings against weight of evidence,Whether lack of antecedents valid mitigating factor where offender charged with multiple offences relating to single incident,Maid abuse consisting of voluntarily causing hurt, criminal use of force and criminal intimidation

28 July 2004

Yong Pung How CJ:

1 The appellant was convicted on four charges of voluntarily causing hurt under s 323 read with s 73(2) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) (“PC”), two charges of using criminal force under s 352 of the PC and one charge of criminal intimidation under the second limb of s 506 of the PC. All seven charges related to a single incident of maid abuse, and the appellant was sentenced to a total of three months and two weeks’ imprisonment. She appealed against both conviction and sentence. I dismissed both appeals and I now give my reasons.

Facts

2 The appellant is a 30-year-old tuition teacher who lives at Block 392 Tampines Ave 7 #10-235 (“the flat”) with her husband, Ng Sen Ho (“the appellant’s husband”) and her two young children. In April 2002, the appellant approached Arrow Employment Agency (“the agency”) to request for a Filipino maid. The agency informed her that one Jean Ganzon (“Jean”) was available, as she was a transfer maid who had recently been rejected by her previous employers. The appellant selected Jean after an interview and Jean joined the household soon after.

3 The appellant’s relationship with Jean was difficult. She sent Jean to the agency for counselling at least twice as she was dissatisfied with Jean’s attitude and alleged propensity to lie. During these sessions, Jean told the staff at the agency that the appellant scolded her regularly. Jean also claimed that the appellant had hit her arm and pushed her sometime in June 2002, causing her to fall.

4 The seven charges before me stemmed from a single incident on 13 July 2002, some three months after Jean started working for the appellant.

The Prosecution’s case

5 The Prosecution relied primarily on Jean’s testimony. At about 2.00pm on 13 July 2002, Jean was ironing clothes in the flat when the appellant suddenly entered the room and scolded her for leaving the window open. When Jean tried to explain, the appellant grew more agitated. Jean then informed her that she wanted to go to the agency to request a change in employer. When the appellant heard this, she demanded that Jean pack her belongings immediately. Before Jean could finish packing, the appellant pushed her out of the flat and told her to go to the agency.

6 Jean first went to the flat of the appellant’s mother, Ng Ah Hong (“Mdm Ng”), to inform her that she was leaving. Jean was familiar with Mdm Ng as the latter visited the appellant’s flat every day to help look after the appellant’s young daughter. The appellant’s second child had not been born at this time.

7 After visiting Mdm Ng, Jean proceeded to the agency where she spoke to two staff members, one of whom was Michelle Chin Mee Chuen (“Michelle”). Jean explained that she was frightened of the appellant and did not want to continue working for her. However, Michelle informed Jean that she could not get another transfer, as she had not finished paying her agency fees and was already a transfer maid. She warned Jean that she could be repatriated if a new employer could not be found. Jean was advised to return to the appellant’s flat, which she eventually did at about 4.00pm.

8 In the corridor outside the flat, Jean met the appellant’s husband who was leaving the flat with his daughter after having returned from work. Jean approached the door of the flat and rang the doorbell. When the appellant opened the door and saw Jean, she immediately grabbed her shirt and pulled her into the flat. After closing the door, she pushed Jean, who fell onto a concrete shoe rack and injured her right elbow. The appellant ordered Jean to get up. As Jean obeyed, she grabbed Jean by the shirt and brought her to the maid’s room. She pushed Jean again, causing Jean to hit her head against the wall. When Jean tried to protect her head, the appellant grabbed her shoulders and hit her head against the wall three more times.

9 After this, the appellant pulled Jean to the kitchen toilet and pushed her in. Jean fell and hit her jaw against a pail. As she got up, the appellant scooped water from a pail and poured it over her. The appellant took some ice cubes from the refrigerator and placed them in Jean’s bra and short pants. She also put some ice cubes in Jean’s hands and ordered her to eat them. Frightened, Jean did as she was told. The appellant then brought a fan from another room and switched it on, directing it at Jean and causing her to feel cold and shiver.

10 Sometime after, the appellant told Jean to change her clothes. However, she refused to allow Jean to change out of her wet underwear. After Jean had changed, the appellant brought her to the living room and demanded that she kneel before her. While Jean was kneeling, the appellant scolded her and kicked her on her right thigh, causing her to fall over. When Jean resumed her kneeling position, the appellant kicked her again, this time on her left thigh.

11 Finally, after scolding Jean further, the appellant ordered her to stand up. She told Jean, “I am not scared to kill you. I can afford to pay you.” She then instructed Jean to clean the flat and prepare to accompany the family out to dinner. The entire household later left for dinner at a restaurant in Tampines Mall. Although Jean was not restrained at the mall, she did not run away as she was holding a bag belonging to the appellant and did not want to be accused of theft.

12 The next afternoon, while the family was asleep, Jean ran away to the Embassy of the Phillipines. On the advice of the officers there, she made a police report. She was also sent for a medical examination at Alexandra Hospital. As a result, the appellant was charged with four counts of voluntarily causing hurt, two counts of using criminal force and one count of criminal intimidation. Two of the four original charges of voluntarily causing hurt (District Arrest Cases Nos 26175 and 26176 of 2003) concerned the earlier incident in June 2002, when the appellant allegedly hit Jean’s arm and pushed her. On the first day of trial, these two charges were stood down, and two fresh charges of voluntarily causing hurt (District Arrest Cases Nos 26181A and 26181B of 2003) relating to the events of 13 July 2002, were preferred.

13 The trial against the appellant therefore proceeded on the following seven charges, all of which pertained to the incident on 13 July 2002:

(a) voluntarily causing hurt to Jean by pushing her and causing her to hit her head against the wall (District Arrest Case No 26177 of 2003);

(b) using criminal force on Jean by pouring water on her and making her stand in front of a fan (District Arrest Case No 26178 of 2003);

(c) using criminal force on Jean by placing ice cubes inside her bra and short pants (District Arrest Case No 26179 of 2003);

(d) voluntarily causing hurt to Jean by kicking her (District Arrest Case No 26180 of 2003);

(e) committing criminal intimidation on Jean by saying she was not afraid to kill Jean, which was a threat to cause death (District Arrest Case No 26181 of 2003);

(f) voluntarily causing hurt to Jean by pushing her and causing her to fall and injure her elbow (DAC 26181A/2003); and

(g) voluntarily causing hurt to Jean by pushing her and causing her to fall on a pail (DAC 26181B/2003).

14 Jean also filed a civil suit against the appellant.

The defence

15 The appellant denied all of Jean’s allegations. According to her, on the afternoon of 13 July 2002, she had spoken to Jean “in a normal tone” about the work that had to be done around the house. Jean then said she wanted a change of employer since the appellant was not happy with her. The appellant told Jean she could pack her bags and go straight to the agency to inform them. She maintained that she did not shout at Jean or push her out of the flat. Jean walked out on her own.

16 After Jean left, the appellant called Michelle at the agency to help counsel Jean. She also called her mother, Mdm Ng. During this conversation, Jean appeared at Mdm Ng’s flat and said “Mum don’t want me”. The appellant told Mdm Ng not to say anything more, as she had already told Jean to go to the agency. Later in the day, at about 4.00pm, Michelle called the appellant and told her that Jean had gone to the agency to tell them that the appellant wanted a new maid. However, after counselling, Jean had been advised to return to the flat. Michelle had also warned Jean that she might be repatriated and forced into prostitution to repay her outstanding agency fees.

17 After the phone call, the appellant’s daughter woke up and began crying. The appellant’s husband returned home at around the same time and brought the child out of the flat to pacify her. Just after they left, Jean returned home and the appellant let her in. As she entered her room and began to unpack, the appellant asked her why she had told Mdm Ng and Michelle that the appellant wanted a new maid, when in fact it was Jean herself who wanted a new employer. Jean refused to reply. The appellant then gave her a “light push” to elicit a response. Jean lost her balance and fell on the floor. After she fell, Jean deliberately struck her head against the wall.

18 Stunned by the turn of events, the appellant went to the living room and started to cry. Jean then came to the appellant and knelt on the floor to apologise, and hugged the appellant to console her. The appellant said everything was all right and told Jean to continue with the household chores. At about 5.00pm, the appellant’s husband returned with their daughter and the whole family left with Jean for dinner.

19 After the incident, the appellant decided to look for a new maid. She fixed an appointment with a maid agent at 10.00am the very next day. On the morning of 14 July 2002, she woke up at 7.00am to prepare for the appointment. She also used her computer to browse the webpage of an employment agency that supplied Filipino maids. At this time, Jean was moving around the flat and could have seen what the appellant was...

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