Remember the case of Pinay maid whose weight fell from 49kg to 29 kg after she had been starved by her employers in Singapore for more than 15 months?
According to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the couple Chong and Lim who had pleaded guilty March of last year would have been sentenced to a higher jail term of more than 10 months if they had been charged in 2015 under the Penal Code instead of Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA).
According to The Straits Times Singapore, under the Penal Code, voluntarily causing grievous (VCGH) is punishable by law with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment while voluntary causing hurt carries only a maximum of a 2-year jail sentence.
Chief Justice Menon set aside Chong Sui Foon’s 3-month jail term and three weeks for her husband, Lim Choon Hong. They were then required to pay a fine amounting to $10,000 in State Courts as they both served 10-month jail term each.
However, upon hearing their appeal, the Chief Justice said that the 10-year jail term should not be misconstrued as saying that such a punishment would always be sufficient for the type of offending conduct that is presented here, even if a charge had been presented under a different provision.
He added, “the same level of culpability would likely have resulted in a significantly higher sentence because of the wider sentencing range that would have been afforded the court in that situation”. Even more is this the case when one factor in the enhanced penalties for offenses against domestic maids.”
Chief Justice also noted that the case had been initiated by the Manpower Ministry and by the time the prosecutor had taken the matter, the public prosecutor opted to use prosecutorial discretion and pursued the case under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor S. Sellakumaran called for a maximum of 12 months’ jail under EFMA, for depriving the Pinay maid with her basic human right to sufficient nutrition. But lawyer Suresh Damodara appealed on the couple’s defense and tried to establish the fact that Chong’s behavior has been affected by some mental illness. But then, the Chief Justice pointed out that there was a relation between the mental illness.
Chief Justice declined to impose the 12 months after taking into consideration that the couple had paid the Pinay maid with $20,000 and that their actions cannot be considered as a result of cruelty.
“It is imperative in this milieu of circumstances that we as a society ensure that these foreign workers are treated decently and accorded the sort of guarantees of human dignity that we would accord to any human being.”
In future cases of maid abuse, the prosecution will assess the case and will charge the guilty employers depending on the severity of the circumstances.