Hong Kong couple jailed for 'torturing' Indonesian domestic helper

Indonesian helper was attacked with bicycle chains, beaten and tortured with hot irons

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 4:19pm

A judge branded a couple "cruel" and "vicious" as he jailed them for subjecting their Indonesian helper to two years of abuse.

Judge So Wai-tak sentenced Tai Chi-wai, 42, to three years and three months in prison and his wife Catherine Au Yuk-shan, 41, to five and a half years as she took a greater part in the assaults.

Tai, who was convicted of two wounding charges, attacked Kartika Puspitasari, 30, with a bicycle chain and with his fists. Au tortured her with hot irons, a paper cutter, bicycle chains, a hanger and a shoe. She was convicted of six charges of wounding and assault causing actual bodily harm.

The offences took place between October 2010 and October 2012 at the couple's Tai Po home.

The pair were acquitted of false imprisonment. They had been accused of tying the maid to a chair for five days, leaving her without food and water, while the couple and their three children went on holiday.

Video:Hong Kong couple jailed for abuse of Indonesian maid

But Judge So found the helper's evidence about this incident to be exaggerated and had "inherent improbability". It was, in short, quite unbelievable, he said.

The judge, sitting at the District Court in Wan Chai, also doubted the maid's allegation that Au forced her to wear children's clothes that exposed her breasts in front of the family.

"It is just impossible for the witness to wear a three-year-old girl's clothes," the judge said.

However, he found that medical reports supported the assault allegations. The reports showed the helper had 45 old and new scars all over her body.

They included cut wounds and burn marks. The multiple scars on her legs and wrists also matched her description of being bound with cable. A doctor estimated the injuries were caused from weeks to six months ago.

Even if the maid was suing the couple for unpaid wages at the Labour Tribunal, the judge found there was no reason for the maid to have inflicted so many wounds herself to frame the couple.

Judge So said the couple were guilty of a serious breach of trust.

"A foreign domestic helper coming to Hong Kong has to face the difference in culture and customs in a different background. The employer should keep a rational and open mind to accept their difference," the judge said.

"There is no reason to use violence on helpers, not to mention using them as a tool to vent their anger. The court has a duty to protect people who come from different countries."

The couple appeared calm on being sentenced. Their lawyer, Alan So, said they had prepared for this consequence and had contacted the Social Welfare Department to take care of their three children, aged five to 11.

Komunitas Migrant Indonesia chairwoman Mia Sumiati said she hoped the case would send a message to employers that a helper was also a human being.

"If the employer does not like the maid, just let her leave. Don't torture her," Sumiati said.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Employers of Domestic Helpers Association said the case had sent a warning to employers and helpers since most cases of abuse arose from a lack of mutual understanding. "Both parties should understand the importance of harmony as they are living under the same roof," he said.