Public Prosecutor v Yong Siew Khian

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeAlvin Koh Meng Sing
Judgment Date30 June 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 22
Citation[2003] SGMC 22
Published date01 October 2009
Plaintiff CounselDerrick Kang Yu Hsien (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Defendant CounselSurian Sidambaram (Surian & Partners)

1 The accused, Mdm Yong Siew Khian (“Mdm Yong”) claimed trial to the following charges of maid abuse against her domestic maid, Mursiyani Mistam (“Mursiyani”):

1st Charge (MAC 4779 of 2002)

“You, Yong Siew Khian, Female, 36 Years old, NRIC No: S1823012G,
are charged that you on or about August 2001, at about 11.00am at Blk 737 Pasir Ris Drive 10 #03-39, Singapore, caused hurt to one Mursiyani Mistam, by doing an act so negligent, to wit spilling hot water from the kettle onto the left ear and back of the said Mursiyani Mistam, an act which endanger the personal safety of Mursiyani Mistam and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 337 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.”

2nd Charge (MAC 4780 of 2002)

“You, Yong Siew Khian, Female, 36 Years old, NRIC No: S1823012G,
are charged that you on or about the 16th of September 2001 at about 8.00pm, at Blk 737 Pasir Ris Drive 10 #03-39,Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Mursiyani Mistam, did voluntarily cause hurt to the said Mursiyani Mistam, to wit by pinching her left triceps, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 323 read with Section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.”

3rd Charge (MAC 4781 of 2002)

“You, Yong Siew Khian, Female, 36 Years old, NRIC No: S1823012G,
are charged that you in the month of September 2001, at Blk 737, Pasir Ris Drive 10, # 03-39, Singapore, being the employer of a domestic maid, one Mursiyani Mistam, did voluntarily cause hurt to the said Mursiyani Mistam, to wit by using a plate to hit her head, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 323 read with Section 73(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.”

2 At the end of the trial, I found that the prosecution failed to make out its case and ordered that Mdm Yong be acquitted and discharged of all three charges. The prosecution appealed. I now give the grounds for my decision.

The case for the Prosecution

3 The prosecution called eight witnesses to the stand:

1) SSGT Patrick Lim Boon Hua (‘SSgt Lim’), Investigating Officer – PW1

2) Zaimuddin Anwar (‘Mr Anwar’), Bahasa Indonesia Interpreter – PW2

3) Siti Chotimah (‘Siti’), Complainant – PW3

4) Dr Teoh Hock Luen (‘Dr Teoh’), Examining Doctor – PW4

5) Mursiyani Mistam (‘Mursiyani’), Indonesian Maid – PW5

6) Fauziah Bte MohdYusof (‘Fauziah’), Neighbour – PW6

7) Seng May Ling (‘May Ling’), Maid Agent – PW7

8) SSGT Mohd Yusoff Bin Ahmad (‘SSGT Yusoff’), Police Officer – PW8

PW1. Testimony of SSgt Lim, Investigating Officer

4 Investigating Officer SSgt Lim took over the case after preliminary investigations were completed and recorded cautioned statements from Mdm Yong. In these statements, Mdm Yong maintained that with regard to the first charge, she had accidentally spilled hot water on Mursiyani. On the other two charges, she denied the allegations totally. SSgt Lim also testified that Siti had handed over to him some hand-written notes, P6, that were thrown into her house by Mursiyani.

PW2. Testimony of Mr Anwar, Bahasa Indonesia Interpreter

5 Mr Anwar was a formal witness who translated Mursiyani’s hand-written notes from Bahasa Indonesia to English. The translation was admitted as P7.

PW3. Testimony of Siti, Complainant

6 Siti is from Indonesia and was the complainant. She had been neighbours with Mdm Yong for about seven years at the material time. Siti met Mursiyani for the first time in front of the lift after she threw rubbish at the common rubbish chute situated near her flat. Mursiyani greeted her with the “Salaam” (Muslim greeting) but they did not talk. Some two to three days later, Siti met Mursiyani for the second time and asked her how she liked working for Mdm Yong. Mursiyani started to cry and showed Siti a one-inch in diameter reddish-blue bruise which she claimed was inflicted by Mdm Yong. In court, Siti pointed to the upper front portion of her left arm as the location of the pinch mark. Mursiyani further told Siti that hot water was “poured on her back”. Although Siti testified that she did not see anything, nevertheless, she maintained that the “wound had healed”. Approximately one week later on 20 September 2001, Siti found Mursiyani’s hand-written notes in her house. Siti understood from reading it that Mursiyani was not happy working for Mdm Yong and wanted to work for her instead.

7 The next afternoon, 21 September 2001, Siti testified that she met Mursiyani again while she was with Fauziah and Ruby at the playground at the foot of the block. Mursiyani informed her that she had again been assaulted during dawn prayers and showed Siti a red mark on her head. Moved by pity for Mursiyani and on the urging of Fauziah and Ruby, at 3pm, Siti lodged a police report against Mdm Yong for maid abuse.

PW4. Testimony of Dr Teoh, Examining Doctor

8 Almost two hours later, Dr Teoh examined Mursiyani at Changi General Hospital. Mursiyani informed him that she had been pinched on the left triceps, scalded with hot water and slapped on the cheeks every day. She pointed out the bruise on her triceps to him. Consequently, Dr Teoh performed a physical examination of Mursiyani’s cheeks, back and triceps. Apart from the 5 cm bruise on her triceps, Dr Teoh was unable to find any other injuries. The bruise had soft tissue swelling indicating that the injury could have been as recent as a few hours old (although this was unlikely) to one week old. Dr Teoh opined that it was unlikely to be self-inflicted (although not impossible) because there was twisting involved. Also, while it was unlikely that Mdm Yong’s children could have caused it, this could not be ruled out.

9 With regard to the slappings, Dr Teoh opined that whether Mursiyani’s face would display injuries depended on how hard she was actually slapped every day. In this case, he did not find any facial injuries nor any other evidence of slapping. He also could not find any scald injuries or any associated scarring on Mursiyani’s back or anywhere else on her body. In addition, Dr Teoh was positive that Mursiyani did not mention anything about being hit on the head with a plate.

PW5. Testimony of Mursiyani, Indonesian Maid

10 Mursiyani commenced work as a domestic maid in Mdm Yong’s household on 26 July 2001. As per the usual practice, Mursiyani owed her agency, Regency Personnel Pte Ltd (“Regency”) costs incurred in bringing her to Singapore, to be repaid in six monthly deductions in her salary. Should she abandon her contract and return home prematurely, she would be penalised 5 million Rupiah by Regency. From the outset, Mursiyani found it difficult to cope with Mdm Yong’s two children and complained to her and her agent, May Ling, that they would frequently hit her.

11 Mursiyani confirmed that on the first occasion when she met Siti, they merely exchanged a Muslim greeting and did not talk. Thereafter, Mursiyani penned a note to Siti to pour out her sorrows, but did not throw it into Siti’s house until 20 September 2001. During the second meeting, Mursiyani cried and told Siti that Mdm Yong had poured hot water over her and pinched her. She showed Siti the bruise from the pinch. A few days later at the playground, Mursiyani met Siti again in the presence of two of her friends for the third time. Siti again asked to see the place where she had been pinched.

12 In relation to the first charge, Mursiyani alleged that at about 11am on a Saturday approximately one month after she started work, Mdm Yong questioned her why she had used hot water from the thermos flask in the kitchen to wash a milk bottle instead of using hot water from the kettle. Mursiyani apologised. Mdm Yong reprimanded her saying, “Look! This is hot water, you don’t know? Everything, you don’t know!” Mdm Yong then took the kettle from the stove, lifted it up to ear level and chased after her. Frightened, Mursiyani ran while shielding her left cheek with her left arm. The base of the kettle touched her head just above her left ear and hot water splashed out and wounded her. Mursiyani screamed, then squatted down and cried. Mdm Yong quickly closed the kitchen door for fear that her husband, Mr Tay Kok Lin (“Mr Tay”) would hear her. She then replaced the kettle, took out some ice and brought her to the toilet where Mdm Yong applied ice on her back. She then sat Mursiyani down and apologised, asking her not to report the matter to the agent and if anyone should ask about the injury on her ear, to lie that it was caused by hot oil.

13 In relation to the second charge, Mursiyani testified that at about 8pm sometime after the hot water incident, she was ironing Mr Tay’s clothes in the living room. After examining her ironing, Mdm Yong was displeased. She pinched the back of Mursiyani’s left arm, whilst at the same time pulled her from the ironing area. Mursiyani cried and saw that the area pinched was red-bluish. After that, she went back to observe how Mdm Yong ironed the clothes. Mursiyani claimed that she only showed Mdm Yong the bruise in private when the police arrived at the house on 21 September 2001. After seeing the bruise, Mdm Yong told her to lie to the police about her injuries.

14 In relation to the third charge, Mursiyani testified that on a morning before Mdm Yong went to work, she checked a plate that Mursiyani was washing and told her that it was not clean enough. Mdm Yong used the plate to knock the top of Mursiyani’s head and proceeded to wash it herself. Mursiyani felt pain but there were no injuries.

15 In addition to these allegations, Mursiyani contended that that she was not given sufficient food. Mdm Yong would scold and slap her on the cheeks for the smallest of mistakes between four to six times in one day. However, she did not see if there were injuries on her face because she was always too busy with her chores.

PW6. Testimony of Fauziah, Neighbour

16 Fauziah was also Mdm Yong’s neighbour during the material time of the charges. At about 2pm on 21 September 2001, Fauziah was in her flat when Siti’s daughter came...

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