SINGAPORE — A 51-year-old woman was on Friday (26 February) found guilty at the State Courts of slapping her Myanmar maid with so much force that the victim suffered hearing loss in her left ear due to damage to the inner ear from the head trauma.
Gayathri Iyer, a Singaporean, committed the crime at about 5.45am on 7 December 2017 at her seventh floor apartment at Pebble Bay condominium along Tanjong Rhu Road.
The housewife was also convicted of assaulting the victim, 30, on another occasion on 27 October 2017 by hitting her back and shoulder area.
District Judge Tan Jen Tse delivered the guilty verdict on two counts of causing hurt after a 13-day trial.
But he acquitted Gayathri of two other charges of assault. The prosecution had alleged that Gayathri also slapped the victim's face on 1 July 2017, just days after she started work, and hit her back shoulder blade area with a frying pan sometime in October 2017.
The victim comes from a family of farmers and has 10 years of education. She started working in Singapore in April 2014 and worked for the culprit, a housewife, from June to December 2017.
She had off-days every Sunday, although she would have to return home before 6pm.
In their closing submissions for the case, Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Ee Kuan and Amanda Sum said the victim "would buy dry food such as biscuits and noodles for consumption during the week ahead on Sundays". She also testified at trial that she did so because the family did not provide her with sufficient food during her employment.
In July, the victim confided in two compatriots that she had been abused. They also testified that they saw a big bump on the victim's head. This was allegedly due to the culprit having thrown a high-heeled shoe at the victim.
The victim also sent photos of injuries to her friends, including bruising over the right shoulder.
Text messages retrieved by the police also showed the victim confiding to her friends about her employer. Among other things, the victim said, "Female employer is very smart. She acted very nice in front of male employer. She tortured me when the male employer is not around."
The victim also worried that the abuse would worsen if she reported the matter to the police.
Long hours, heavy duties
In pointing out inconsistencies in the culprit's testimony at trial, the prosecutors noted, among other things, that she sought to downplay the number of helpers that worked for the family over the years.
"She first said that the family had employed about 10 helpers, in their 20 years in Singapore...These claims were lies," said DPPs Tan and Sum. In total, the family hired 19 helpers, the majority of whom worked for the family for less than six months, they noted.
Confronted with this evidence at trial, Gayathri said, "all these girls ... they come, they did not adjust to the kind of cleaning that I expect or whatever”.
The prosecutors said, "This indicates that the duties of a helper in the accused’s household were strenuous, thus supporting (the victim's) account of her long hours and heavy duties."
Among other things, the victim had to clean the floor of the condo unit with a cloth instead of a mop. Asked at trial why this was so, Gayathri "evaded the question, stating that a previous helper cleaned the floor with a cloth because she 'wanted some exercise'," said the prosecutors in their closing submissions.
A hearing test conducted on the victim in December 2017 found that she had pain and minimal hearing in the left ear associated with occasional giddiness and ringing in the ears. Another test the next month found that her hearing had improved. But in June 2018, she visited a doctor as she had giddiness almost daily. A final hearing test three months later found that she had normal hearing.
Gayathri is out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to return to court for sentencing on 17 March.
The punishment for causing hurt is a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
If the victim is a domestic maid and the offender is her employer or a member of the employer’s household, the maximum punishment is up to three years' jail and a fine of up to $7,500.
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