SINGAPORE — A woman who abused a maid was sentenced to seven weeks’ jail on Tuesday (28 September) instead of a mandatory treatment order (MTO) that she was seeking.
Wang Xiaohui, 35, had been suffering from major depressive disorder, which was deemed to have contributed to her outburst against Ngo Sabal, a 25-year-old helper from Myanmar.
Her lawyer, Cory Wong from Invictus Law, had pointed out that an Institute of Mental Health report recommended 18 months of MTO for Wang. Under an MTO, a person will receive psychiatric treatment in lieu of jail time.
An IMH psychiatrist stated in his report that Wang's major depressive disorder had resulted in her having difficulty in exercising self-control over her actions to a moderate extent, said Wong.
Wang has been following up with a private psychiatrist from late last year. She will not be able to hire domestic helpers in the future, and will be paying $2,000 compensation to Ngo Sabal as well.
However, District Judge May Mesenas said she would not follow IMH's recommendation, saying that fines and MTOs were only imposed in exceptional cases.
Wang was still aware of the wrongfulness of her actions, the judge said, adding that the circumstances leading to the offences were fairly trivial and that Wang should not have vented her frustrations on a maid who had arrived in Singapore for the first time.
Ngo Sabal was hired by Wang’s husband on 30 March 2019 and was tasked to do household chores and assist in caring for the couple’s young children.
On 16 July 2019, Wang, who had chickenpox, instructed the maid to wash and dry her clothing by hand to avoid contaminating the rest of the family’s clothing.
Ngo Sabal misunderstood the instructions, and proceeded to wash the clothing by hand, but dried it along with the other family members’ clothing in the washing machine. Wang scolded the maid.
Later that day, the maid also washed the family’s dishes with the same sponge, despite being instructed to wash the dishes separately.
Furious, Wang picked up a plastic hanger to hit Ngo Sabal’s left arm and back until it broke. She then picked up two more plastic hangers to repeat the action until they too broke.
Wang picked up a fourth hanger made of wood to beat the maid on her arm, back, thigh, and head. She only stopped when the wooden hanger also broke. She instructed the maid to throw the broke hangers into a rubbish chute.
Ngo Sabal had extensive bruising from the beatings but Wang did not bring her to the doctor.
On 18 July 2019, Ngo Sabal met a female stranger at the playground and rolled up her left sleeve to reveal the bruises on her left upper arm. The maid also touched her head and told the stranger that her female employer had hit her.
This stranger took photos of the bruises and reported the incident to the police. The police went to Wang’s unit later that day and took photos of the victim’s injuries. Ngo Sabal was then conveyed to the hospital for treatment of her bruises and tenderness.
She then moved to a shelter and no longer wishes to work in Singapore.
Voluntarily causing hurt carries a jail term of up to three years, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. For causing hurt to a maid under her employ, Wang's punishment may be enhanced by up to two times.
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