Hong Kong woman jailed for torturing domestic helper Erwiana ordered to pay damages to second victim
District Court orders Law Wan-tung to pay HK$170,000 in damages to Indonesian domestic worker Tutik Lestari Ningsih
A second Indonesian domestic helper won damages from a Hong Kong employer who was jailed for torturing her and Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, concluding a lengthy legal battle over a shocking abuse case that made global headlines four years ago.
The District Court order of HK$170,000 awarded in Tutik Lestari Ningsih’s favour on Monday added to a HK$809,430 bill which Law Wan-tung was ordered to pay to Erwiana last December.
The same court had previously slapped a six-year jail term and a HK$15,000 fine on the beautician in 2015 after finding her guilty in a criminal trial of assaulting and intimidating Tutik before abusing Erwiana.
Tutik recalled that she was – among several incidents of assault – struck by the bamboo end of a feather duster for falling asleep at work and told that she would be killed if she told anyone.
Fresh details of the abuse emerged earlier this month, when Tutik’s counsel Tony Ko revealed that she was imprisoned in Law’s Tai Kok Tsui flat for 346 days from April 2010, during which time she was only paid HK$6,000 to work 20 hours a day with no holidays.
But she was forced – by Law slapping her – to sign papers confirming she had received wages and compensation for holidays, and told to keep quiet about the abuse with threats to kill her and her family.
Her luggage and personal belongings, including her phone, were also locked up by her then-employer.
Tutik had only left her workplace unaccompanied once, but not without being told that Law would be tracking her.
Ko said Law’s conduct towards his client was “seriously wrong”, cruel and inhumane. “A foreign domestic helper is entitled to trust that her employer would treat her reasonably,” he said. “The defendant has breached the trust reposed by the plaintiff on the defendant.”
On Monday, Judge Liu Man-kin accepted Tutik’s evidence in its entirety and found that she had proved her case against Law after concluding that she was “an honest and reliable witness”.
While Law had also filed a witness statement denying everything said by Tutik, the judge had decided to draw “an adverse inference” against her evidence since she did not confirm her statement under oath.
“If there’s anything in the plaintiff’s witness statements which are untrue, the defendant can certainly give evidence in the trial to refute those untrue allegations,” the judge said in a 35-page judgment. “However, the defendant elects not to give any evidence in this trial.”
The judge concluded: “The defendant has completely deprived the plaintiff’s liberty.”
He ruled that Tutik was entitled to aggravated damages since her “proper feelings of pride and dignity had been injured” by Law’s conduct.
Some HK$100,000 in aggravated damages was then awarded for false imprisonment, and another HK$70,000 for common assault, with an interest rate at 2 per cent per annum from the filing of the present action in May 2015 until the full payment.
Law lost her appeal against her conviction and sentence in 2016, with the Court of Appeal’s Mr Justice Michael Lunn warning that further attempts to clear her name could result in more jail time.