Hong Kong courts

Indonesian domestic helper spent three months in Hong Kong jail because she had nowhere to live after employer accused her of spiking drink with urine

Department of Justice drops case after finding no evidence alleged crime took place, as workers’ rights group highlights plight of those forced into jail by live-in law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 8:15pm

A domestic helper who spent three months in jail waiting to stand trial went free from court on Wednesday after the city's prosecutors decided not to press charges.

Rahayu Septiana, an Indonesian helper, had been accused by her employer of lacing their drinking water with urine in May.

But lawyers for the Department of Justice told the court a month ago they could find no trace of urine in a water sample, and the 24-year-old was released after being told she would no longer be facing one count of administering poison with intent to injure.

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A spokesman from the justice department said having taken into account the evidence, including the result of forensic examination, the facts of the case, and the applicable law, the department considered there to be insufficient evidence to support a “reasonable prospect of conviction”.

Despite the revelation over the evidence a month before her release, Rahayu remained in jail, and Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, the general manager of Mission For Migrant Workers, said courts often found it reluctant to grant bail to domestic helpers accused of committing a crime.

This is because, she said, Hong Kong imposes a so called live-in policy, which requires domestic helpers to live with their employers.

Abdon-Tellez said because of the policy helpers, most whom are accused by their employers, were left with nowhere to go, and as a result had no proof of address.

“The problem with migrants domestic workers … is that while they have not been proven guilty, they are still kept in prisons,” said Abdon-Tellez, whose group helped Rahayu.

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Rahayu was arrested by police on May 26, after her employer at Palm Cove, a private housing estate in Tuen Mun, accusing her of pouring urine into her water bottle.

The worker was brought to Tuen Mun Court two days later, when she was refused bail and was sent to a detention facility.

On July 9, when Rahayu was brought to the same court, the prosecutors said a forensic examination of the bottle failed to detect any trace of urine.

However, prosecutors sought an adjournment and she was sent back to jail, even though her bail application was no longer opposed.