A woman jailed for torturing her Indonesian domestic helper with hot irons and bicycle chains has been found not guilty of withholding the maid's wages during her entire two-year service.
Deputy Magistrate Ho Chun-yiu made the ruling when Catherine Au Yuk-shan, 42, appeared at Sha Tin Court yesterday on 24 charges of failing to pay Kartika Puspitasari, 31, a total of HK$86,000 for two years from July 2010.
Au told the court earlier that she paid Kartika in cash every month. The court also heard that Au kept a book of salary records but that this went missing the day Kartika fled Au's Tai Po flat.
Au's husband, Tai Chi-wai, 43, also told the court that he saw Au give Kartika the wages in the first three months she worked for the couple.
He also said he accompanied Kartika to convenience stores, where she transferred part of her wage to her recruitment agency.
Deputy Magistrate Ho Chun-yiu said he did not believe Au's testimony because she "did not answer what was asked".
But he also questioned the testimony of Kartika. For example, he did not understand why Kartika was willing to work for Au for two years with no pay.
"If [Kartika] did not get paid at all, why did she stay on for two years? And it should be noted that she renewed her contract after the first contract finished," the magistrate said.
Ho said he also did not understand why Kartika did not tell other helpers what had happened to her when she met them.
He also said it was hard to accept Kartika's testimony that Au tied up her hands every time the employer went to work. That would be against the purpose of hiring Kartika as the helper would not have been able to do the housework with her hands tied.
The magistrate said he was not implying that Kartika had lied in court. But since there was no other testimony to support her claims he could not confirm that what she said was true.
Last year, Au was jailed for 51/2 years and Tai for three years and three months. Tai, who was convicted of two wounding charges in the District Court, attacked Kartika with a bicycle chain and with his fists. Au tortured her with hot irons, a paper cutter, bicycle chains, a clothes hanger and a shoe. She was convicted of six charges of wounding and assault causing actual bodily harm. The judge in the earlier case branded the couple "cruel" and "vicious".
A justice department spokesman said it would review the ruling to decide whether to appeal.