Singapore

Maid abuser's jail term, cut on appeal, increased by apex court

A woman whose initial 20-month jail term for maid abuse was cut to eight months last year had her sentence increased to 14 months by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Suzanna Bong Sim Swan, 48, was found guilty of one charge of causing hurt to Ms Than Than Soe on May 17, 2015, by hitting the maid's left cheek repeatedly with a glass bottle containing medicated oil.

However, the apex court said it was important to consider all the circumstances of an offence to assess the level of the offender's wrongdoing and the extent of the victim's suffering.

In this case, Bong's acts took place in the context of a sustained pattern of abuse for a period of almost two years, during which the domestic worker from Myanmar was subjected to physical abuse and oppressive working conditions.

The court heard that Bong regularly assaulted the maid - who was 27 when she started her employment in 2013 - and often punched the victim in the eye or face. Bong also rubbed curry on the victim's face for not heating it up for dinner, pulled her hair and slapped her.

About 10 months after arriving in Singapore, the victim's eyesight began to deteriorate. She told her employer about it but Bong dismissed it.

The victim called the police after Bong assaulted her with the glass bottle, and was later found to be legally blind in her left eye.

In 2018, Bong was sentenced to 20 months' jail by a district court and ordered to pay compensation of $38,540.40 to the victim. Bong appealed to the High Court, which reduced her sentence to eight months and the compensation sum to $1,000.

Justice Chua Lee Ming said then that there was no evidence that Bong's acts on May 17, 2015, caused the victim's injuries, which might have been caused by previous instances of abuse for which Bong was not charged.

The prosecution then brought the case to the Court of Appeal to determine questions of law that arose in the case.

In August, the Court of Appeal ruled that if there has been a pattern of abuse, it would be wrong to view the charge in isolation because that would give a false assessment of the suffering of the victim and of the offender's culpability.

Yesterday, the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang, increased Bong's jail term to 14 months.

She was granted a one-week deferment and was ordered to start serving her sentence on Sept 30.

COURT & CRIME