A Singaporean couple who repeatedly abused their domestic worker over a three-month period and withheld her salary for almost a year were jailed on Monday (11 February).
Linda Seah Lei Sie, 39, was sentenced to three years’ jail at the State Courts after being convicted on six charges of causing hurt to Myanmar national Phyu Phyu Mar. The victim had worked for the couple from February to October 2016.
Seah, a beauty salon manager, was also ordered to pay the maid a total of $11,800 in compensation or spend another six weeks behind bars.
Her husband, 44-year-old interior designer Lim Toon Leng, was jailed six weeks on one similar charge. Lim is a director and shareholder with Seah’s salon.
The couple, who have a five-year-old daughter, were found guilty last month following a 15-day trial. Both are currently out on bail of $15,000 and $5,000 respectively, pending appeals against their convictions and sentences.
In passing their sentences, District Judge Olivia Low said, “Psychological harm was suffered by the victim in the way (Seah) conducted herself to oppress and humiliate the victim.”
The judge noted that Seah’s actions had been “calculated”, noting that she had taken steps to avoid taking the blame for Phyu Phyu Mar’s injuries. This included Seah ordering the maid to pour hot water on herself and telling her that the employment agency had been the one to ask the victim to bang her own head on the floor.
DJ Low said Seah showed a “clear lack of remorse”, adding that, “unhappiness with the victim’s work should not justify any form of violence against the victim”.
She also noted that the victim had been denied food, which led to her being malnourished; had not been paid her salary throughout her employment; was constantly threatened by Seah that she would report the victim to the police; discouraged from interacting with her employer’s salon staff; and told to lie to the police when interviewed.
Victim forced to scald self
Seah forced Phyu Phyu Mar to pour hot water on herself around her left shoulder sometime between late August and September 2016.
Over that period, Seah also compelled the maid to knock her own head on the floor, made her drink water tainted with floor cleaner and grabbed her by the hair and shook her.
On 13 October 2016, Seah also hit Phyu Phyu Mar several times on the forehead, left eye and left had with a mobile phone. Lim also punched Phyu Phyu Mar’s forehead twice that day.
These crimes were committed at the couple’s Punggol Walk flat.
Saved by salon staff
During a visit to Seah’s workplace later that day, a salon employee noticed that the maid had a swollen left eye, a bruise and a scald injury on her left shoulder.
The employee called the police the following day. Officers later interviewed the couple at their home.
According to the victim’s impact statement, Phyu Phyu Mar still has a scar on her left shoulder.
The maximum penalty for causing hurt is up to two years’ jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per charge. If the crime is committed by the employer of a maid or a member of the employer’s household, the perpetrator is liable to one and a half times the punishment.
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