Man appeals against conviction, sentence for abusing domestic worker who later tried to commit suicide
SINGAPORE — A man who was handed a jail term for abusing his domestic helper who tried to kill herself as a result of the abuse, appealed against his conviction and sentence on Thursday (April 14).
- James Ong Teck Keong was sentenced to jail last year for abusing his domestic helper, who later on tried to commit suicide
- On Thursday (April 14) he appealed against both the sentence and the conviction
- His defence lawyer argued about the weight that was given to the victim's statements, which were not tested in court as she had left the country
SINGAPORE — A man who was handed a jail term for abusing his domestic helper, who tried to kill herself as a result of the abuse, appealed against his conviction and sentence on Thursday (April 14).
James Ong Teck Keong, 49, was sentenced to more than a year in jail last January after he was found guilty of slapping and throwing a bottle at Ms San Pa Pa, as well as scalding her with hot water.
Ms San Pa Pa tried to kill herself by jumping off the ninth floor of the Housing Board block where they had lived, but was restrained by Ong’s wife and another domestic worker living in the same block.
The foreign domestic worker returned to Myanmar after the incidents and did not return to give evidence in court, so the prosecution during the trial relied on three statements she had given to the police.
However, when convicting Ong in late November 2020, District Judge Ong Chin Rhu had said that even though the statements were untested by cross-examination, due weight should be given since they were consistent with other evidence, including eight statements that Ong himself gave to the police.
In appealing against the conviction of causing hurt by splashing hot water on the victim, defence lawyer Mr Anil Lalwani of DL Law Corporation, said Ong had testified that he had hurt himself by spilling the hot water on his own hand.
The lawyer said this indicated a lack of intention on Ong's part as he would most likely not have scalded himself if he wanted to pour hot water on the victim in a calculated or deliberate manner.
Mr Lalwani further submitted that while Ong was aware that there was a risk of the hot water in the kettle spilling when he tilted it, it remained to be tested whether his actions would have caused hurt to the victim.
Justice Aedit Abdullah at this point commented that the counsel may be “slicing it too thinly”, stating that it would follow that there if the hot water was spilled, it would cause hurt to a person in close proximity.
Mr Lalwani also appealed against the charges of slapping the domestic worker, saying that it was unsafe to put much weight on the victim’s words as only herself and Ong were present in each incident.
He added that the investigations were “shoddy” as no further questions were asked of Ms San Pa Pa with regard to the intensity of the slaps and the timeline. There were also inconsistencies in her statement, he said.
The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Seah Ee Wei, emphasised that the “key plank” of their submission is Ong’s own admissions that corroborated with the victim’s statement.
In her written submission, she added that “The (District Judge) found that the appellant gave numerous conflicting versions of the hot water incident and ultimately agreed in cross-examination that he knew that there was a high likelihood that the water would splash onto the victim if he had tilted the kettle towards her but did so anyway”.
DPP Seah also highlighted how the accused previously had not challenged the accuracy of Ms San Pa Pa’s recorded statement.
“The statement recorders and interpreters all testified that her three statements were accurately recorded and interpreted, and this was not challenged by the defence,” she said in written submissions.
On the other hand, she said, Ong had accepted that the incidents stated had occurred, but only differed in certain details such as the degree of force and intent.
The case will be heard in court again on May 13 for Justice Abdullah to deliver his decision.
Related topicsmaid abuse crime court foreign domestic worker
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