Maid court case: Can you buy yourself out of jail?

Mar 28, 2017 08.00PM |

by Bertha Henson

STOP condemning the couple who starved their maid and thinking their jail terms are too short. Did you notice this point about how they paid Filipina Thelma Oyasan Gawidan $20,000 as part of a settlement agreement?

ST said her lawyers had requested the sum on her behalf and added rather intriguingly that the lawyers “were not named’’. Now, she’s the victim; she doesn’t need a lawyer because the State will act on her behalf. And it doesn’t seem the State was too happy about the settlement either.

Said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet: “The payment of $20,000… does not emanate from genuine remorse, but is motivated by the hope of obtaining a lower sentence and of settling once and for all the civil claims that the victim has against the accused persons.”

The State intends to appeal against the sentences meted out. It wanted a year’s jail but in the end, the judge sentenced housewife Chong Sui Foon to three months in jail. Her husband Lim Choon Hong received a three-week jail term and a fine of $10,000. They are out on $3,000 bail each pending the appeal.

Gawidan, 41, worked for the couple from January 2013 to April 2014. She was given just two meals a day, usually plain bread and instant noodles and had to ask for permission to drink water. Her weight plummeted from 49kg to 29kg, she lost 40 per cent of her body mass and stopped menstruating.

So was the $20,000 a sign of remorse or some kind of bribe? It might be small change to some people. The couple live in a condominium near Orchard Boulevard.

District Judge Low Wee Ping asked the defence to convince the court that their clients were remorseful: “The court must be sure that compensation is not used to buy their way out.”

Mr Raymond Lye, the defence lawyer, said both of them agreed to the settlement and terms without making a single amendment. The terms were not mentioned in court.

He said: “Agreeing to Madam Gawidan’s request in full without negotiation, including the terms of the agreement as drafted by her lawyers, shows remorse and regret.”

According to TODAY, the judge was convinced that Lim was remorseful but didn’t elaborate. He also said that Chong’s actions in depriving the maid of food were “extremely aggravating but accepted that like her husband, she did not seek to starve the maid. He didn’t say more on this.

Maybe we’ll hear more about this later.


Featured image from TMG file.

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