SINGAPORE: A man in a landmark maid abuse case received more jail time on Monday (Aug 26) after a High Court judge granted the prosecution's appeals.
Justice Hoo Sheau Peng also reversed an acquittal of a charge for his wife, 43-year-old Chia Yun Ling, over the non-payment of Myanmar national Moe Moe Than's salary.
Former IT manager Tay Wee Kiat, 41, received six more months, making his total jail sentence for abusing 31-year-old Moe Moe Than two-and-a-half years.
Chia received three months' jail for not paying the maid her salary. The term will run concurrently with her original sentence of three years and 11 months' jail and a fine of S$4,000.
The couple had also been given separate sentences for their ill-treatment of another maid, Indonesian national Ms Fitriyah, whose employment overlapped with Ms Than's.
At the hands of the pair, Ms Than was caned, had rice and sugar forced down her throat through a funnel, asked to eat her own vomit and physically abused.
Tay had also been convicted of asking the two maids to slap each other and pray before a Buddhist altar 100 times, even though Ms Than was Christian and Ms Fitriyah Muslim.
EVIDENCE REGARDING SALARY NOT EVALUATED
Addressing first the prosecution's request to reverse the acquittal of the salary-related charge Chia faced, handed out by District Judge Olivia Low, Justice Hoo said she agreed with the prosecution that the lower court judge was wrong in her assessment of evidence.
She said District Judge Low did not evaluate the evidence or make any clear findings of Chia's version of events. Chia had claimed that she had paid Ms Than the salary she was owed in full.
However, Justice Hoo said this was not believable, as Chia changed her position about the date she had paid Ms Than, and her reasons for the backdating were "contrived" and "illogical".
Moreover, any documentary evidence from an oppressive employer in such a situation would be regarded with suspicion, said Justice Hoo.
It was also clear to her that a note supposedly penned by Ms Than declaring that she had received her salary in full had been dictated to her by Chia.
She reversed the acquittal and convicted Chia of the charge, sentencing her to three months' jail for it, along with a compensation order of S$1,450, which is the outstanding salary owed to Ms Than.
The judge also allowed the prosecution's appeal for a higher jail sentence for Tay, saying it was warranted to reflect the gravity of the offences.
COUPLE TOLD TO COMPENSATE MAIDS OR HAVE PROPERTY SEIZED
Before the close of the hearing, the prosecution reminded the couple through the court that if they do not fulfil the compensation orders for both maids, the prosecution can order their property to be seized.
Tay told the judge that he and his wife did not know how much they owed, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said Chia owes S$1,900 to Ms Fitriyah, while Tay owes S$5,900 to her.
Including the S$1,450 in salary Chia owes Ms Than, Chia owes her S$7,950 in total, while Tay owes her S$3,000.
In total, the couple owe the two maids S$18,750. However, their former defence lawyer had told the court that they had exhausted all of their financial resources on the trials.
Tay asked the court if he and his wife could serve default sentences in lieu of payment, but Justice Hoo explained that a compensation order is different from a fine where serving a jail term in default is allowed.
She urged them to make payment and asked the prosecution to write down the amounts for them.
Tay asked the judge if she could assist the couple, as they wanted to tele-visit each other every month but needed another institute on top of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) to agree to their request.
The judge agreed as they were not represented by lawyers. She asked the prosecution to convey the request to SPS, but emphasised that it was a matter within the prisons' purview.
The couple are currently serving their sentences for their treatment of Ms Than.
For abusing Ms Fitriyah, Tay had been given 43 months’ jail, an increase from 28 months’ jail upon appeal, while his wife had received a two-month prison sentence.
The case will be heard again in High Court to determine how they will serve these sentences.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that Chia Yun Ling was also given more jail time. This is incorrect as the three months she was sentenced to on Aug 26 will run concurrently with her original sentence. We apologise for the error.