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5 months' jail, fine for nurse who repeatedly assaulted maid, withheld salary over 'mistakes'

SINGAPORE — After about a year of physical abuse and her employer cutting her monthly salary for "mistakes" such as damaging items, domestic worker Ma Ei from Myanmar decided to call the police for help. 

Zhao Lin at the State Courts on May 30, 2022.

Zhao Lin at the State Courts on May 30, 2022.

  • Zhao Lin, 35, pleaded guilty to several instances of physically abusing her domestic worker for not doing housework as instructed
  • After one instance of being slapped, kicked and hit in 2018, the Myanmar worker called the police
  • Investigations found that Zhao had also slashed her worker's salary from S$500 a month to S$200
  • A judge rejected her lawyers' request for a mandatory treatment order report to be called

SINGAPORE — After about a year of physical abuse and her employer cutting her monthly salary for "mistakes" such as damaging items, domestic worker Ma Ei from Myanmar decided to call the police for help. 

However, this prompted her employer Zhao Lin to start attacking and shouting at her once more. 

On Monday (May 30), Zhao, a 35-year-old Singapore permanent resident, was sentenced to five months’ jail and a fine of S$1,000 for her crimes from 2017 to 2018.

The court rejected her lawyers’ request to call for a report to assess if she was suitable for a mandatory treatment order — a community sentencing option offered to offenders suffering from mental conditions that contributed to an offence.

She deferred her sentence until June 13 and remains out on a S$15,000 bail.

Zhao, who was working as a nurse at the time of the offences, pleaded guilty in April to four counts of voluntarily causing hurt to the worker, now 29, and one mischief charge in relation to destroying the worker's mobile phone.

Four other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

'I WILL DO IT UNTIL YOU ARE SCARED'

Ms Ma Ei began working for the household in February 2016 when she was 23. It was her first time working in Singapore and she earned about S$500 a month.

In 2017, Zhao began to cut Ms Ma Ei’s salary by about S$100 each time to S$200 a month for "mistakes" that the worker made. This was for breaking bowls and plates while cleaning, for example.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Teo Lu Jia pressed for five to seven months’ jail, along with a S$1,000 fine for the mischief offence.

DPP Teo argued that apart from inflicting physical harm on Ms Ma Ei, Zhao caused psychological harm due to the sustained nature of her assaults.

The abuse began in mid-2017 and escalated in August 2018, when the victim was slapped 10 times on her cheeks for not storing Zhao’s son’s toys the way Zhao wanted it done.

While in the bedroom, Zhao told Ms Ma Ei to “stand properly” and slapped her on both sides of her cheeks a total of 10 times, counting out the number of slaps loudly as she did so.

Her forceful slaps could be heard clearly in surveillance footage of the bedroom shown in court in April.

Zhao then went to sort her son’s toys herself and said to Ms Ma Ei: “I will do it until you are really, really scared… Next time, follow do (sic) my way… You know what is called ‘do it my way’ or not?”

Zhao assaulted her some more later that day while Zhao’s four-year-old son was there. Police officers arrived when the worker called the police.

When the police arrived, they asked to view the surveillance footage but Zhao refused. Her husband later arrived and told police officers that there were memory cards in the two closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) installed in the home, which they seized.

Ms Ma Ei saw a doctor at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital a few hours after the incident and was found to have bruises and abrasions on several parts of her body.

DPP Teo told the court that the abuse was “humiliating” and “calculated to reinforce the offender’s authority and to oppress and bully the victim into submission”. Zhao had continuously targeted Ms Ma Ei’s face and berated her using a demeaning tone, the prosecutor argued.

In a victim impact statement, Ms Ma Ei said that she would cry whenever she recounted the abuse and is now fearful that her future employer will behave like Zhao.

NO LINK BETWEEN DEPRESSIVE DISORDER AND OFFENCES

Zhao suffered from persistent depressive disorder but the prosecution’s psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) found no significant contributory link between the mental illness and her offences.

DPP Teo told the court that Dr Jason Lee’s opinion was supported by the CCTV footage. The psychiatrist said it showed that her actions were “goal-directed and targeted”.

The defence’s psychiatrist, Dr Munidasa Winslow, found that Zhao had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

However, DPP Teo argued that his report did not explain how the diagnostic criteria for this were met and the diagnosis was “premised on some inaccurate self-report information”.

Zhao’s lawyers, Mr John Koh and Ms Audrey Koo from Populus Law Corporation, argued that Dr Winslow had seen the CCTV footage and maintained his position in his medical report.

They also said that Zhao had voluntarily compensated Ms Ma Ei with S$6,300 for her pain and suffering, damage to the victim’s phone and the loss of prospective earnings during the period of her unemployment.

The defence counsel added that she was deeply remorseful and had to take care of her son mostly by herself, because her husband was a full-time Grab driver.

Voluntarily causing hurt carries a punishment of up to two years’ jail or a fine of up to S$5,000, or both. If the crime is committed against a domestic worker under the offender’s employment, he or she may receive one-and-a-half times the maximum punishment. 

For mischief, Zhao could be jailed for up to a year or fined, or both.

Related topics

court crime maid abuse assault employer

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