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Man acquitted of abusing maid after judge finds she had motive to lie, wanted a transfer

SINGAPORE — A 49-year-old man accused of physically abusing his domestic worker was cleared of all four criminal charges in the State Courts on Wednesday (July 21).

Alan Tan Chai Soon, who denied hitting Ms Cabacungan, was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal for three counts of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid and another charge of using criminal force on her.

Alan Tan Chai Soon, who denied hitting Ms Cabacungan, was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal for three counts of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid and another charge of using criminal force on her.

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  • Alan Tan Chai Soon was cleared of voluntarily causing hurt and using criminal force on Ms Cabacungan Leezel Mina
  • She worked for his household for about eight months before alleging that he physically abused her
  • Tan’s defence counsel argued that she wanted a transfer to another household 
  • Tan and his wife had threatened to send her back to the Philippines if she did not improve her work performance

 

SINGAPORE — A 49-year-old man accused of physically abusing his domestic worker was cleared of all four criminal charges in the State Courts on Wednesday (July 21).

District Judge Luke Tan found that the worker, Ms Cabacungan Leezel Mina, was not credible and had a motive to fabricate the allegations against her employer’s husband Alan Tan Chai Soon.

The couple wanted to send the domestic worker, whose age was not stated in court documents, back to the Philippines due to her poor work performance.

Tan, who denied hitting Ms Cabacungan, was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal for three counts of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid and another charge of using criminal force on her.

His lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, told TODAY that he had lost his job in the food and beverage industry after being charged. He has remained unemployed for two years.

His wife hired Ms Cabacungan in November 2017 on her mother’s recommendation, as the maid had worked for her relative’s family for several years.

Ms Cabacungan alleged that Tan first got angry in April 2018 and slapped her after finding too much water in the rice cooker.

She also claimed that he slapped her again the next month for collecting too much water in a pail for mopping the floor and pinched her on her arm for using the light switches wrongly, leading to a bruise.

The last allegation was that Tan had pinched the side of her face and used his hand to clamp her lips in June 2018, after telling her to speak louder.

LEFT AFTER GETTING FIRST MONTHLY SALARY

Through his defence counsel, Tan argued that Ms Cabacungan made the allegations of abuse so that she would be transferred to another household and avoid being sent home.

Tan and his wife had told her multiple times that they intended to do so if her work did not improve.

They also said a maid agency would not facilitate a transfer as they had hired her directly. 

On May 25, 2018, after watching a television programme about domestic workers borrowing from moneylenders, the couple warned Ms Cabacungan that she would be sent back home if they found out that she did so.  

The next day, they told her to pack her bags as her performance was still poor, but she begged them to let her stay.

They decided to give her another chance. Tan’s wife also asked if she had borrowed money and she denied doing so.

However, Ms Cabacungan had already borrowed a total of S$2,726 from moneylenders by then.

On June 2, 2018, after getting her monthly salary, Ms Cabacungan went to the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) helpdesk at Lucky Plaza mall on Orchard Road on her day off and made the allegations against Tan.

The Ministry of Manpower and police were alerted.

INCONSISTENT TESTIMONY

During the trial, Ms Cabacungan claimed that prior to her complaint, she kept silent about the purported abuse because she wanted to work.

Mr Singh however pointed out that she changed her version of each alleged incident multiple times in court. 

For example, when cross-examined about Tan pinching her and clamping her lips, she admitted to lying about the amount of force used. She later claimed she had been telling the truth when earlier questioned by the prosecution.

A doctor who saw her for her regular mandated medical checkup on May 28, 2018 testified that she did not observe any signs of ill-treatment and Ms Cabacungan did not seem frightened as well.

During the trial, the maid conceded that she went to Home to get help for a transfer to a different employer. 

She denied it was her only intention, but Mr Singh argued she could have told the doctor at the medical checkup, or told her friends or cousin as she had free access to her mobile phone and her own set of house keys.

Tan testified that for the first incident involving the rice cooker, he was unsure if Ms Cabacungan knew what she was doing, so he merely placed his hand on her cheeks to get her attention and asked her.

In acquitting Tan, District Judge Luke Tan ruled that the prosecution had not proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt after finding Ms Cabacungan’s evidence to be inconsistent, incoherent and confusing.

The judge also found she had reason to lie and that Tan’s and his wife’s version of events were believable and credible.

If convicted of voluntarily causing hurt to a domestic worker, Tan could have been jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$7,500, or both.

He could also have been jailed for up to three months or fined up to S$1,500, or both, for using criminal force otherwise than on grave and sudden provocation.

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court crime voluntarily causing hurt criminal force abuse domestic worker acquittal

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