SINGAPORE: A woman who subjected her domestic worker to physical abuse for more than a year, leaving her covered in welts and with burn marks, was sentenced to 31 months' jail on Monday (Dec 24).
Anita Damu, also known as Shazana Abdullah, employed 27-year-old Siti Khodijah from Indonesia to work for her as a maid in October 2013 for S$522 a month.
She was given only five hours of sleep - between 11pm and 4am - daily for about 15 months, deputy public prosecutors Yang Ziliang and Claire Poh said.
From January 2014, Anita began slapping her maid two to three times a week, progressing to using a pair of pliers to pinch Ms Siti's arms and back.
This escalated to Anita splashing hot water on her maid's back and leg, and pressing a hot iron on both of the helper's wrists later that year.
The abuse continued into 2015, when Anita repeatedly hit Ms Siti's face with a slipper, forced her to drink hot water and poked her with a metal-pronged bamboo pole.
On top of this, Ms Siti slept on the floor on a blanket without a mattress for most of her employment, and was not given enough food to eat.
She had lunch and dinner only twice or thrice a week after January 2014, the prosecution said.
An investigation officer from the Ministry of Manpower received a tip-off about maid abuse and visited the flat Anita shared with her husband and four daughters in April 2015.
She found Ms Siti with welts on her face and burn marks on her hands, as well as scars on her body, and spoke to Ms Siti privately before calling the police.
Ms Siti was taken to Changi General Hospital where an examination found multiple injuries that the doctor found to be possibly abuse, including a black eye as well as burn and scald marks.
She also had developed scars and keloids on her arms and hands from the abuse by her employer.
MAID CONCERNED THAT SHE CANNOT MARRY WITH HER DEFORMITIES
The prosecution asked for 48 months' jail, calling it "a grievous case of persistent and systematic abuse".
"More than two years onwards, the victim still bears two large keloids on her hands and wrists," said the prosecution. "The emotional trauma suffered by the victim is also significant. The victim, who is still single, has real concerns that her physical deformities will be an insurmountable barrier to her desire to get married."
Anita's defence lawyer R.S. Bajwa urged the court to take into account her psychiatric disorder as one of sufficient severity to significantly diminish her culpability.
Anita suffers from Major Depressive Disorder with mood-congruent psychotic features, he said, and there is a causal link between her mental illness and the commission of the offences.
She heard voices instructing her, and while she was remanded, nurses observed her responding to the voices in her head, Mr Bajwa said.
"The voices had a major role," he said, adding that she suffered from hallucinations.
Anita also pleaded guilty, cooperated with the police and paid compensation of S$4,000 to Ms Siti, he added.
ACCUSED ASKED TO STAND, SAYS SHE'S SHAKING
District Judge Terence Tay noted that the nature and effects of mental disorders vary between individuals.
He asked why Anita was not standing, to which she said she was shaking. She had been rushed to hospital in October when she was to be sentenced as she felt ill.
She then stood and listened to the judge as he told her that she had known what she did was wrong.
While noting that the charges against Anita were serious and took place over a protracted period of time, the judge said his sympathy was with Anita.
Even so, he said it was fortunate that someone had surfaced the case to MOM, as Ms Siti had suffered physical and psychological harm that left her with scars.
On top of the jail term of 31 months, the judge ordered Anita to pay compensation of S$8,000 to Ms Siti, on top of the S$4,000 she already paid, by Jan 31.
Anita's defence lawyers said she intends to appeal against her sentence.