Woman fails in appeals, begins jail time for splashing hot water on ex-boyfriend's groin over cheating
SINGAPORE: A woman who was sentenced to four years' jail for splashing hot water on her then-boyfriend's groin over suspicions that he was cheating on her will begin her jail term after failing in her appeals on Wednesday (Nov 17).
Zareena Begum P A M Basheer Ahamed, 51, was sentenced to jail in November last year, after being convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by means of a heated substance.
She took to the High Court on Wednesday to mount appeals against both her conviction and sentence, asking first to overturn the guilty verdict given out by the trial judge and to lower the jail term from four to three years.
Zareena was in a relationship with the victim, a married man, for 11 years.
In July 2017, Zareena invited the victim to her house. When he fell asleep on the sofa, she took his phone and saw text messages from another woman.
Angered, she boiled hot water in the kitchen before emptying a mugful of it on the victim's groin area.
He suffered burn injuries on more than 12 per cent of his body surface area and was hospitalised for 26 days. He could not work for about six months after.
DEFENCE ATTACKS CREDIBILITY OF VICTIM
In his arguments on Wednesday, defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary pointed to the victim's lack of credibility.
There were no witnesses to the crime other than Zareena and the man, and the victim had lied about multiple things including having sex with Zareena after the incident and what she had said to him after pouring the water on him, said Mr Tiwary.
He added that the victim's first account was that he did not know why Zareena had poured hot water on him, and did not remember what she told him when he asked her "why you do this".
It was only when the prosecutor referred to his police statement that the victim remembered Zareena replying "serves you right", said the lawyer.
"It cannot be true that a person would forget something as significant as 'serves you right'", said Mr Tiwary. "It's a bit difficult to understand why a person can remember asking a question, but not the answer, especially when the answer is so damning."
He added that the victim had lied about checking into a hotel with Zareena after being discharged from hospital, with objective evidence proving that they did check into the hotel.
He also lied about having sex with Zareena after the incident, and this affects his credibility, asserted Mr Tiwary.
He said the jail term of four years was manifestly excessive, saying that his client was a first-time offender and was not a woman given to violence.
The trial judge described Zareena's actions as "cold and calculated", said Mr Tiwary. Instead, "it was done in the heat of the moment when passions were inflamed", he said.
"If she was seeing messages from another girl, it was not the first time. They had quarrels before. In those circumstances, any woman would feel abused and taken advantage of, and in that moment she lost her self-control," said the lawyer.
VICTIM WAS A "RELUCTANT WITNESS": PROSECUTOR
In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia said the trial judge was correct to find the victim credible. As for his alleged inconsistencies, she pointed out that he was a "reluctant witness".
He did not lodge any police report against her, and it was the hospital treating his burn injuries that filed the report. It was the victim who initiated contact with Zareena after the incident, said Ms Teo.
She pointed to the victim's injuries and said it was unlikely that he was able to have sex with Zareena after being discharged from hospital, as the defence alleged.
The victim had three surgeries, in which skin had to be removed from his thigh to his groin, and suffered permanent scarring, said the prosecutor.
In contrast, it was Zareena who said incredible things, said Ms Teo. She testified at trial that she "loves boiling water" and would drink it.
"This is exaggerated because ... her throat would be scalded," said Ms Teo. She added that the offence was "clearly targeted to punish him for cheating".
"It's tempting to consider (Zareena) a victim of cheating," she continued. "But she's (also) a third party in his marriage."
Justice Vincent Hoong dismissed both appeals by Zareena. He pointed to the evidence of the doctor who treated the victim, which remains "unshaken".
The doctor said it was a major burn injury likely caused when the victim was lying on his back, with water that was 90 to 100 degrees Celsius.
"I'm of the view that the objective evidence clearly states that the victim was injured in the manner he had testified. The evidence of the appellant, on the other hand, was inconsistent with evidence," said Justice Hoong, finding that the prosecution had proven the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
For voluntarily causing grievous hurt by a heated substance, Zareena could have been jailed for life, or jailed for up to 15 years and fined. She cannot be caned as she is a woman.