Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong couple jailed for torturing Indonesian helper fail in appeal bid

Couple convicted of torturing domestic helper will serve out their sentences, judges rule

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 3:26am

A couple who were jailed for torturing their Indonesian domestic helper with bicycle chains and hot irons over two years lost their appeals yesterday against their convictions and sentencing.

The High Court ruling means Tai Chi-wai and Catherine Au Yuk-shan, both in their early 40s, will serve the rest of their prison terms - three years and three months, and five years and six months, respectively.

When the sentences were handed down in September, the trial judge denounced their "cruel" and "vicious" abuse of Kartika Puspitasari, though he found unbelievable the helper's claim that she was tied to a chair for five days without food and water while her employers and their three children went on holiday.

Deputy District Court judge So Wai-tak did not err when handing down his verdict, Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, Madam Justice Maria Yuen Ka-ning and Mr Justice Derek Pang Wai-cheong concluded in rejecting the couple's appeal applications yesterday. Nor was the sentencing too heavy, Yeung said.

Tai was convicted of two counts of wounding for beating Kartika with a bicycle chain and his fists.

His wife Au - who tortured the helper with irons, bicycle chains, a paper cutter, a hanger and a shoe - was found guilty of six charges of wounding and assault causing actual bodily harm. The attacks took place over two years, starting from October 2010.

At the Court of Appeal, both alleged Kartika's evidence contained contradictions.

They also argued that So should not have jumped to conclusions just because Kartika was injured and they happened to be her employers.

Tai, who was representing himself, questioned the accuracy of the helper's testimony when describing which parts of her body he had allegedly hit.

"She was giving evidence only according to the photographs [of her injuries] shown to her," he told the court.

Tai also claimed Kartika gave different answers on two occasions when she was asked about the time he hit her shortly before she fled their Tai Po home.

He added that for the two charges of which he was convicted, the sentence was too heavy.

Au similarly attacked alleged gaps in Kartika's statements, in a lengthy document filed to court.

She brought to the court's attention a different version of the story Kartika gave the Labour Tribunal after the couple's conviction, but the three appeal judges found that irrelevant.

Au's lawyer Warren Tang asked the court to consider a more lenient sentence if it would not overturn Au's conviction, as she had no prior criminal record and had three children to look after.

He also suggested Au could have been provoked. That, however, was quickly dismissed by Yeung, who stressed that the abuse took place over a substantial period of two years.

"How could she have been provoked every day?" Yeung said. "Wouldn't she just fire her?"

The judge reiterated multiple times that So had taken into consideration the contradictions and exaggerated claims made by the helper, thereby leaving no room for further argument.

He also said the 40-odd injuries found on Kartika were by no means self-inflicted and were inflicted over a period of time, during which the couple employed her.

If those injuries had been caused by a third party, "there was no reason for you to remain silent", he told Au and Tai.