A MERCHANT accused of repeated indecent assault of his maid was spared a six-month jail sentence when his conviction was quashed on appeal. The merchant, 41, had denied four counts of indecent assault on the 20-year-old maid but was found guilty on all charges after trial by Deputy District Court Judge Line, who sentenced him to six months' jail. The Appeal Court heard that the maid started to work for the appellant at his Sai Kung home in August 1991. On the morning of November 6, 1991, after his wife had gone out, the appellant asked the maid for a massage. It was the Crown's case that after the maid had started to massage his shoulders, he claimed it was uncomfortable with clothes on, so he got undressed and told her to massage his chest and private parts. It was alleged that when she declined, he caught hold of her hand and forced her to fondle him, caressing her at the same time. He asked her to have sex with him but she refused, it was alleged. According to the maid, on the mornings of November 12 and 21, 1991, under the pretext of having a massage, the appellant assaulted her again. During the trial she told the District Court that she lodged a complaint with the Philippine Consulate on her first leave day on November 28. On the following morning, when she was cleaning the bathroom, the appellant, who was said to be only wearing underpants, allegedly held her tightly and told her he wanted a massage. Giving evidence in his defence, the merchant claimed the maid gave him a straight forward massage on the first occasion and he gave her $500 for the service, as that was what he would have paid in a massage parlour. He admitted that the three subsequent massages had been accompanied by masturbation but she was willing to do it. He contended that she had asked for a $40,000 loan but he was unwilling to give it to her. His counsel on appeal, Anthony Sedgwick QC, leading Chong Kai-man, argued that the trial judge had erred in relying entirely on his own assessment of the manner in which the maid and the merchant gave their evidence. The Appeal Court comprised Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang, Vice-President Mr Justice Macdougall and Mr Justice Bokhary. It will give its reasons for allowing the appeal at a later date. The court declined to order a retrial.