Public Prosecutor v Mak Ka Ling & Stanley Wang Yan Hung

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeEric Tin Keng Seng
Judgment Date15 October 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGMC 36
Citation[2001] SGMC 36
Published date19 September 2003



This is the prosecutions appeal against my order of acquittal in respect of Mak Ka Ling and Stanley Wang Yan Hung.

2 Both accused, a married couple, were jointly tried before me for two counts each of voluntarily causing hurt to one Suprihatin Binte Rusmin (Suprihatin) contrary to s 323 read with ss 73(1)(a) and 73(2) of the Penal Code. Against Mak Ka Ling (Mak), it was alleged that on 5 September 1999 at Blk 331, Tampines Street 33, #03-452 (their flat), she slapped Suprihatins face (exhibit P1), and on or about August 1999 at or about 4 pm at their flat, she punched Suprihatins forehead (exhibit P2). Against Stanley Wang (Wang), it was alleged that on 5 September 1999 at or about 10 pm at their flat, he used his hands to repeatedly slap Suprihatins face (exhibit P3), and in August 1999, at or about 10 pm at their flat, he kicked Suprihatins back (exhibit P4). At the material time, Stanley Wang was Suprihatins employer.

Prosecutions Case

3 The prosecutions case hinged on Suprihatins oral testimony, police report and medical report. According to Suprihatin, both accused started to "use hands" on her some time after the family moved into their flat. Mak would complain to Wang about Suprihatins work performance. Mak would assault her almost everyday. Suprihatin could not remember the dates nor the incidents of these assaults. She recalled that whenever Mak scolded her, she would slap her, and the slappings were very hard.

4 Suprihatin recalled that sometime in August 1999, at their flat, Mak punched her forehead once when the former asked her to mop the floor.

5 She also recalled that on one occasion, Wang kicked her back once, but she could not remember the date and time. This incident happened after the family had dinner when she was washing dishes in the kitchen.

6 On 5 September 1999, both accused were apparently unhappy over Suprihatins cleaning of the kitchen. Both accused then slapped her that night but she could not remember the time save that it was after dinner when she was cleaning the kitchen. She remembered Mak slapped her face first. Wang then slapped her once on her right cheek. Mak slapped her intermittently for many times on both sides of her face. Mak then made her clean and re-clean the whole kitchen from around 11 pm till around 5 am the next morning. She had to wipe the floor, walls and cabinets of the kitchen.

7 At around 6 am on 6 September 1999, Suprihatin jumped out of the three-storey flat, and walked for another four hours before she reached the Bedok Police Division HQ at Bedok North Road. At 10.17 am, she lodged the following police report (exhibit P5):

"On 5/9/99 @ 2230 hrs at the above place I was beaten up by my employers because they claimed that I was too lazy and did not do any work. I was assaulted by both my Chinese employers (Husband & Wife). They punched me and threw me around the house. This has been going on for the past three months."

8 Sergeant Abu Sufyan Jamil confirmed that he helped a female complainant to lodge a police report at around 10.15 am on 6 September 1999 at Bedok Police Division. The complainant was alone and had a few bags with her. She alleged that her employers assaulted her numerous times. He recalled seeing some bruises on her forehead and on her cheek, but could not remember on which side. He spoke with the complainant in a mix of Bahasa Indonesia and Malay. He did not remember them having difficulty understanding each other. After he recorded the report, he read it back to the complainant in Malay who confirmed its correctness. In the less than 15 minutes they were together, he observed her to be silent and sad but did not cry.

9 Dr Tiah Ling examined Suprihatin at about 4 pm on 6 September 1999 at Changi General Hospital Accident & Emergency Department upon police referral. In her medical report on Suprihatin dated 21 September 1999 (exhibit P6), she stated:

"She has apparently been assaulted by her employer who hit her on her forehead, face and kicked her in the abdomen.

On examination, the following injuries were noted:

    1. forehead hematoma
    2. right cheek ecchyomosis
    3. lower lip superficial abrasions
    4. lower back erythematous marks

There were no visible external injuries in her abdomen but was tender over left lumbar region with no rebound or guarding.

Skull x-rays did not reveal any fractures.

The above injuries are consistent with blow(s) from a blunt object and they are unlikely to be self-inflicted."

10 The doctor explained that hematoma is a bruise with some swelling, ecchyomosis is a bruise without any swelling, while erythematous marks are bruises that are reddish in colouration. Superficial abrasion means broken skin at a superficial level. The positions of these injuries were denoted in the diagram found on page 2 of Medical Form for Complaint (exhibit P7) which Dr Tiah completed. Dr Tiah opined that these were recent injuries, ie. most likely inflicted within a few hours or few days before, but unlikely to be a week before, 6 September 1999. For the forehead hematoma, she opined that it was likely to be sustained not more than three days before, and very unlikely to be more than one week before, 6 September 1999. She could not comment on how recent the lower lip abrasion was caused.

Close of prosecutions case

11 At the close of prosecutions case, the DPP applied to amend three of the four charges. For charge P3, the amendment was to substitute "hands" with the singular and remove "repeatedly", to be in accordance with Suprihatins version in court. For charges P2 and P4, the DPP proposed to amend the charges from "in the month of August 1999" to "sometime in August 1999 to 5 September 1999" and delete the time of "at or about 4 pm" and "at or about 10 pm" respectively. Counsel did not take issue with the deletion of the time of alleged offences, as Suprihatin herself could not specify the precise time of the incidents. He however objected to the extension of the date of alleged offences to 5 September 1999, as Suprihatins evidence was that the kicking and punching incidents took place in August 1999. The DPP on the other hand submitted that to expect Suprihatin to have specific recollection of the dates was too high a standard for the witness. He also submitted that his proposed amendment to date and time would not prejudice the defence as the incidents were one-off.

12 I allowed all the amendments save the extension of the dates. Suprihatin had testified that the punching incidents took place in August 1999. She could not remember when the kicking incident took place (although the charge stated August 1999). She did not herself say that these two incidents could have taken place any time in September 1999, nor did prosecution establish this. The prosecution only sought to extend the dates in light of Dr Tiahs evidence that all the injuries found on Suprihatin could not be sustained more than a week before 6 September 1999. But I was of the view that any amendment to the date of alleged offences must follow Suprihatins evidence as she was afterall the victim of the alleged assault. To tailor factual evidence to fit the medical evidence would have been unfair to the defence.

13 After the charges were amended, neither party applied to recall any prosecution witness. Counsel then made a brief submission of no case to answer. However, by the seminal test in Haw Tua Taw v. PP [1981] 2 MLJ 49, I was satisfied that a prima facie case was made out against both accused, which warranted their defence. After I administered the standard allocution, both accused elected to testify under oath.

Defence case

14 The defence was one of denial of all allegations of assault. They suggested that Suprihatin fabricated the incidents and falsely accused them because they had threatened to repatriate her to Indonesia.

15 Both accused confirmed they were dissatisfied with Suprihatins work performance since her employment in late May 1999. Mak confirmed that she had to ask her to repeat her work at times. Two weeks after Suprihatin started to work for them, they took her back to the maid agency. They were advised by the agent to give her another chance. This they did. However two or three weeks after that, her performance remained poor. Both accused went to the maid agency and selected a replacement maid (exhibit D2). They told Suprihatin that she would be replaced, whereupon she cried and begged Mak to retain her services. Both accused then relented and allowed her to stay on.

16 Mak admitted that she had scolded Suprihatin and told her off quite often during her three-month employment. Mak would scold her for telling lies, for being "no good". She would ask her to do the cleaning work properly. Mak would sometimes complain to Wang about Suprihatins poor work performance. After her complaints, Wang would advise Suprihatin to work properly. Mak confirmed that Wang did scold but never used force on Suprihatin. She herself denied having used force against Suprihatin.

17 On 13 August 1999, Mak brought Suprihatin to see a Dr Ross Lee Sai Kiang of Island Group Clinic at Bedok because she complained of discomfort and giddiness when asked to wipe the kitchen cabinet. The doctor diagnosed Suprihatin as suffering from early mumps and prescribed her some medication, including vitamin pills (exhibit D1). Suprihatin also had a blood test and she collected the test result (exhibit D9) a week later at the clinic with Mak.

18 On 5 September 1999, at about 6 pm, both accused and their daughter went to Tampines Mall to shop. Before leaving their flat, Mak instructed Suprihatin to clean the kitchen and wipe the windows. Upon returning at about 8 pm, they saw her sitting on the kitchen floor as though she was sleeping, completely unaware of their return. When Mak questioned her, she denied sleeping and claimed to have finished her chores. Wang then found an uncleaned cup. Both accused also found oil spills in the kitchen and...

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