Public Prosecutor v Rosman bin Anwar and another appeal

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSee Kee Oon JC
Judgment Date25 September 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGHC 247
Plaintiff CounselKow Keng Siong and Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeals Nos 9069 and 9070 of 2015
Date25 September 2015
Hearing Date29 May 2015,29 July 2015
Subject MatterOffences,Criminal Law,Causing hurt to domestic maid,Hurt
Published date30 September 2015
Citation[2015] SGHC 247
Defendant CounselIsmail Hamid (Ismail Hamid & Co)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Year2015
See Kee Oon JC:

These are cross-appeals arising out of the convictions of two accused persons – who are husband and wife – after trial in the District Court on charges of voluntarily causing hurt to their domestic maid. Both accused persons appeal against their convictions and the prosecution appeals against the sentences imposed on both of them. The accused in Magistrate’s Appeal No 9069 of 2015 is the husband and the accused in Magistrate’s Appeal No 9070 of 2015 is the wife; I will refer to them as “the husband” and “the wife” respectively. I will refer to their domestic maid as “the complainant”.

The husband was convicted on two charges and the wife on three. The first charge against the husband was that, on one occasion in March 2013, he slapped the complainant four times, twice on each side of her face, and pulled her hair twice; and the second charge was that, on another occasion in August 2011, he slapped the complainant twice on her face. He was sentenced to one week’s imprisonment on each charge, with these two sentences running consecutively for a total sentence of two weeks’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay the complainant $1,520 by way of compensation.

As for the wife, the first charge against her was that, on one occasion in March 2013, she slapped the complainant twice on her face; the second charge was that, on another occasion in August 2011, she slapped the complainant four times, twice on each side of her face; and the third charge was that, on yet another occasion in December 2012, she hit the complainant’s head twice with a plastic stool. She was sentenced to one week’s imprisonment on each of the first and second charges, and to three weeks’ imprisonment on the third charge. The sentences for the second and third charges were ordered to run consecutively for a global sentence of four weeks’ imprisonment.

Facts, allegations and evidence

It is not disputed that the complainant started work in the household of the accused persons on 4 July 2011. The accused persons lived in a Housing and Development Board flat with their three sons. It is also not disputed that the complainant ran away from the flat in the late morning of 25 March 2013.

The complainant’s version of events

According to the complainant, the first month of her employment passed without event, but in August 2011 the accused persons began to inflict physical hurt on her. She testified that they inflicted hurt on her “frequently”, but she could remember only four specific incidents which together formed the subject-matter of the charges against the accused persons. Two of these incidents took place in August 2011, one involving the husband and the other the wife; one incident took place on the night of 24 March 2013, the night before she left the accused persons’ household, in which both the husband and the wife inflicted hurt on her; and the final incident took place around 25 December 2012, this one involving just the wife. I shall relate these alleged incidents in chronological order.

The two incidents alleged to have occurred in August 2011 were described by the complainant as follows. In the incident involving the husband, something was spilled one evening on a carpet inside the flat, and the husband told the complainant to take the carpet out to the corridor and hang it out to dry. While she was doing so, two men selling ice-cream stopped outside the flat. Not knowing what the men wanted, she called out to the husband and he came to the door to speak to them. After the men had left, the husband reprimanded her for allowing “people to come inside” and slapped her twice on the right cheek. In the incident involving the wife, the complainant ironed a garment – specifically, a tudong – belonging to the wife, and when the wife inspected the garment thereafter she discovered that a button was missing. She accused the complainant of “spoiling her things” and proceeded to slap her four times on the face.

I turn now to the incident alleged to have occurred around 25 December 2012. The complainant testified that, one night, the youngest son was playing in one of the rooms in the flat when he pulled on a curtain and caused part of the curtain to come off the curtain rail. At once the complainant went to get a plastic stool from the kitchen; she brought it into the room and stood on it attempting to put the curtain back up. While she was doing so, the wife entered the room. When she saw what had happened to the curtain, she reprimanded the complainant for damaging household items and not taking proper care of them, and used the stool to hit the complainant on the head twice.

The final incident was alleged to have occurred on 24 March 2013. That night, the family went out but the complainant stayed behind in the flat; before they left, she gave the wife a list of groceries that needed to be purchased. The complainant said that, when the family returned, the husband scolded her for “taking the opportunity of getting [the family] to leave the house” so that she could “rest at home”. He then slapped her four times, twice on each cheek; thereafter, while he was standing on a ladder to look into a kitchen cabinet, he pulled her hair twice. The complainant added that the wife was present when the husband slapped her but she could not recall whether the wife was also present when the husband pulled her hair as she might have been praying at the time; the complainant testified that, in any event, the wife subsequently returned to the kitchen after prayer and, while scolding her, slapped her twice.

The following day, 25 March 2013, the complainant called the maid agency in the morning using her mobile phone. She testified that she had obtained her mobile phone only recently, about a month ago; prior to that, she had to use the accused persons’ house phone to make calls, and they would permit her to do so once every few months. On the phone, the complainant related her situation to an employee at the maid agency. Thereafter she left the house and proceeded to the agency, and later that day she went to the police station to make a report. That evening, she saw a doctor shortly before 8.00pm. The doctor examined her and found redness on her scalp. In court, this doctor testified that it was possible that the redness would persist even though the alleged hair-pulling incident took place a day ago, but she acknowledged that it was also possible to cause such redness simply by combing one’s hair.

At the trial below, the prosecution tendered a notebook which the complainant said was a diary that she had kept while working for the accused persons. This exhibit was marked “P3” and I will refer to it as such. P3 contains handwritten text in the Bahasa Indonesian language; much of this consists of reflection and contemplation in the vein of diary entries, albeit with no dates furnished for the entries, but there are also recipes for various dishes and what appear to be lists of tasks and duties to perform. On the premise that the text in P3 was written by the complainant during the period of her employment with the accused persons, and assuming that it recorded events truthfully and accurately, it was evidence that the accused persons had indeed inflicted physical hurt on her on more than one occasion. Translated into English, P3 included such statements as: “I did a fatal mistake yesterday and my employer was very angry with me until my male employer slapped me”; “even my employer called me ‘stone’ and ‘monkey’, I was willing to accept all these trials even called me animal and have been scolded and kicked by my two employers”; “My employer always slapped my face and pushed my head on every Saturday and Sunday”.

The accused persons, however, do not accept that P3 should be given substantial weight as evidence incriminating them. They argue that “the origin and content” of the alleged diary is “in doubt”, particularly so because the entries were not dated. Moreover, they say, P3 does not record specific instances of abuse, and given the lack of dates it cannot be shown that any allegation of hurt made therein corresponds to any incident described in the charges against either accused.

The accused persons’ version of events

Both accused persons flatly denied the complainant’s allegations of abuse against them. They were adamant that their relationship with the complainant was “good” throughout and that they had treated her as family. They testified that their good relationship with the complainant was exemplified by the fact that they had taken her out on a number of outings with the family, for instance, to the zoological gardens and the bird park. The wife added that the complainant had not expressed dissatisfaction on any matter pertaining to her employment up to December 2012 at least, except that she seemed not to be entirely content with her monthly salary of $380 – the wife said that the complainant would compare her situation to that of a friend who was apparently receiving $470 a month.

In relation to the alleged incident in August 2011 in which the husband was said to have slapped the complainant, the accused persons said that the complainant’s account could not be true because (i) she could not possibly have carried the carpet out of the flat by herself, as it took at least three persons to do so, and (ii) she could not have been correct when she said that two men selling ice-cream stopped outside the flat because the ice-cream sellers would never come up to their corridor but would remain “downstairs”. As for the other alleged incident in August 2011, in which the wife was said to have slapped the complainant after a button went missing from her tudong, the wife testified that this could not have happened because she had never worn a tudong that had a button in or on it.

Both accused also challenged the veracity of the complainant’s account of having been hit by a plastic...

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7 cases
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