Judge cuts maid abuser’s jail term after appeal
Court finds the offence the woman was charged with was not directly related to maid's blindness
A woman convicted of abusing her maid was given a lighter sentence on appeal after a High Court judge yesterday found that the offence she was charged with was not directly related to the maid going blind.
Suzanna Bong Sim Swan, 47, was sentenced to eight months' jail for maid abuse after both the prosecution and defence appealed against her original sentence of one year and eight months' jail.
She was also ordered to compensate her former maid, Ms Than Than Soe, $1,000 instead of $38,541.
Bong was found guilty in the district court in February last year of one charge of assaulting Ms Than Than Soe, on May 17, 2015.
During the eight-day trial last year, the court heard that Bong hit the Myanmar national on the cheek thrice with a glass bottle of medicated oil because she was upset by the smell of the oil that Ms Than Than Soe used to ease a headache.
The court also heard that prior to this assault on May 17, Bong abused Ms Than Than Soe two or three times a week, often punching her in the eyes.
The maid became blind in her left eye due to, among other things, retinal detachment, and her right eye was found with severe injuries. She was 27 when she was employed by Bong in 2013 and had perfect eyesight.
Yesterday, the prosecution, led by Deputy Chief Prosecutor (DCP) Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, sought the prescribed maximum jail term of three years, noting that the "case ranks amongst the worst type of maid abuse".
The district judge's sentence was "manifestly inadequate having regard to the severity and permanence of the injuries", said DCP Mohamed Faizal in his submissions to the court.
Bong's lawyers, Mr Sui Yi Siong and Ms Flora Koh, sought a fine instead of a jail term, arguing that the district judge erred in relying on the evidence of Ms Than Than Soe's eye injuries during sentencing.
Justice Chua Lee Ming found that the sentence imposed by the district judge was "manifestly excessive", as there was no evidence that the May 17 incident directly caused Ms Than Than Soe's eye injuries.
A medical professional testified that Ms Than Than Soe's eye injuries, including the retinal detachment, was likely to have occurred before the May 17 incident, a point that the prosecutors acknowledged.
Justice Chua said he had full sympathy for Ms Than Than Soe who has suffered "such horrific injuries".
"However, Madam Bong was not charged for any of the previous assaults. In principle, it would be wrong to punish her as though she had been so charged," he said.
He also noted the court had been "deprived of the opportunity" to ascertain other offences committed by Bong, as the prosecution had proceeded with a single charge.