Erwiana case: boss loses separate trials bid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 8:05am

A judge yesterday agreed to add a new charge to the case against a woman accused of abusing Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, despite objections from her defence that it should be heard at a separate trial.

Law Wan-tung, 44, will face an additional charge of failing to acquire insurance for Erwiana when her trial takes place in December, Judge Amanda Woodcock ruled at the District Court.

Law was already facing 20 charges; 10 of assault on Erwiana and two other Indonesian domestic helpers, Tutik Lestari Ningsih and Nurhasanah; and 10 of violating labour laws by failing to pay or give holidays to Erwiana this year and last.

Law was charged with the additional offence at Kwun Tong Court last month.

"The charges are closely linked, and they are related to one of the victims [Erwiana] in the same period of employment," Woodcock said. Having two separate trials would not, therefore, be practical.

The defence had objected to a prosecution request to combine the two trials.

Peter Cahill, for Law, said the new charge was less serious than the others and would normally be dealt with by magistrates, rather than the District Court.

He also said it would be difficult for Law to receive a fair trial on the latest charge should the case be heard at the same time as the other charges. He argued that the only thing the charges had in common was the fact they involved the same period of time.

But Woodcock said it would be difficult to fly the relevant witnesses to Hong Kong to give evidence at two trials. Besides, she said, it was not within her power to refer the case back to a lower court.

After making her ruling on the consolidation of the charges, Woodcock heard a pre-trial review of the case against Law. The latter hearing took place behind closed doors.

The trial begins on December 8, and 20 days have been set aside for it. Law was released on bail.

The Erwiana case has put conditions for the city's foreign domestic helpers under the international spotlight.

Erwiana supporters waved banners and shouted slogans as Law left the court building in Wan Chai. As at previous hearings, the defendant was accompanied by a doppelganger to distract journalists and protesters.