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Woman gets jail for repeatedly punching maid, leaving her blind and with a deformed ear

Ummi Kalsum Ali repeatedly assaulted the 51-year-old maid until she became blind. The victim was left in a wheelchair at the airport to find her own way home.

Woman gets jail for repeatedly punching maid, leaving her blind and with a deformed ear

Ummi Kalsum Ali outside the State Courts on Oct 25, 2022. (Photo: TODAY/Ili Nadhirah Mansor)

SINGAPORE: After blinding her domestic helper in one eye by punching her repeatedly, a woman refused to let her receive medical treatment. She kept assaulting the maid until the victim eventually lost her sight in the other eye as well.

Despite losing vision in both eyes, the maid continued to perform her chores while slowly feeling her way around the house. When she accidentally burnt her employer's clothes as she could not see, her employer pressed a hot iron on her.

The 51-year-old maid's ear also became deformed as a result of the abuse, and was left at the airport in a wheelchair to find her own way home.

On Tuesday (Oct 25), Ummi Kalsum Ali, 43, was sentenced to 10 years' jail and a fine of S$4,500. She pleaded guilty to six charges. These include voluntarily causing grievous hurt to a maid, ill-treating a maid by neglecting to give her medical attention and failing to pay her salary on time. Ten other charges were considered in sentencing.

The court heard that the victim, a 51-year-old Indonesian national, began working for Ummi on Aug 5, 2019. She was to be paid S$670 as her monthly salary.

Over about five months from April 2020, Ummi began abusing the maid. The Singaporean had earlier confiscated her handphone and installed closed-circuit television cameras in the kitchen to monitor the victim.

In April 2020, Ummi was displeased with the victim, the court heard. She began slapping the victim on her face and ears repeatedly and punched her ears.

She also punched the victim's eyes and when the victim tried to shield her eyes from the repeated blows, Ummi pulled down one of her hands before continuing her punches.

The victim went blind in her right eye after one of the punches and fell to the ground. But Ummi tried to pull her up by her ponytail before continuing to hit her eyes.

Ummi also hit the victim with a handphone and struck her eye with a hanger. The hanger broke from the force of the assault, and Ummi eventually stopped her attack.

As a result, the victim's left ear swelled and hardened and became deformed. Ummi saw that it was swollen but did not take her to a doctor.

A few days after this, the victim told Ummi that she could not see in one eye and asked to visit a doctor, but Ummi denied her request. She threatened the maid, saying she could no longer return if she left the house.

The victim asked if Ummi could accompany her to a doctor, but Ummi refused.

THE ASSAULT CONTINUED

Between April 2020 and September 2020, Ummi continued to abuse the victim. Even though she knew the victim had become blind in one eye, she did not stop assaulting the maid, until she became completely blind.

The victim had to touch the floor and walls of the house to feel her way around as she continued with the household chores.

In one incident, she accidentally burnt Ummi's clothes as she could not see. Angered, Ummi pressed the hot iron on the victim, but the maid did not retaliate or scream.

Footage from closed-circuit television cameras installed to monitor the maid was played in court. The victim was depicted staggering around slowly, bent over and reaching out to feel her way around.

In several clips played in court, the accused was shown sitting while her husband cooked and the victim squatted on the floor, cleaning. The accused's husband was also shown shouting loudly at the victim when she accidentally touched him. He is not facing any charges, the court heard.

Between January 2020 and September 2020, Ummi did not pay the maid her salary on time. 

On Oct 23, 2020, Ummi left the victim in a wheelchair at the airport with airport personnel. She gave the victim about S$6,750 in Singapore dollars and Indonesian rupiah. The victim was left there to find her own way home.

The abuse was discovered when she returned to her hometown, and she was flown back to Singapore to assist with investigations. 

In her pre-employment medical check-up in July 2019, the victim weighed 76kg. In February 2021, she weighed only 52.8kg.

She was given medical attention in Singapore, but her blindness is irreversible, the court heard.

The case was handled by a deputy public prosecutor and a Ministry of Manpower prosecutor. The deputy public prosecutor asked for a total of 10 years' jail, while the MOM prosecutor called the case "cruel".

Ummi's lawyer, Mr Sui Yi Siong from Harry Elias Partnership, said there were other videos that showed the victim may not have been completely blind.

The judge told him that the victim was "irreversibly blind" as his client had admitted, and asked if his client was saying that the victim was "acting".

Mr Sui said the victim was not acting per se, but that there was a later video showing the victim avoiding his client. He argued that she may not have been completely blind.

The court heard that the accused had paid the victim an undisclosed amount as part of a confidential settlement.

VICIOUS PUNISHMENTS BORDERING ON TORTURE: JUDGE

In sentencing, Senior District Judge Bala Reddy called the working relationship between the accused and the victim "generally oppressive and exploitative".

He said he found it most aggravating that the victim was put through "humiliating and degrading punishments" that resulted in, among other things, her becoming irreversibly blind.

The "vicious punishments" that Ummi meted out on the victim bordered on torture, he said.

"To make matters worse, the accused doesn't seem to show much remorse for her actions," said the judge.

He pointed to how Ummi instructed her counsel that the victim may not be all that blind as she could move around the house, contrary to medical records and video footage.

He granted Ummi's request to defer sentence to Nov 8 to settle her affairs, including childcare arrangements.

Source: CNA/ll(ta)

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