SINGAPORE — A woman who slapped a maid over a damaged silk kimono was given 10 days’ jail on Friday (29 January).
Heidi Song, also known as Hani Mohamad Hady Song, had assaulted Deni Riyanti, 34, three times in total throughout her employment.
The 35-year-old administrator pleaded guilty to one out of three charges of voluntarily causing hurt to Deni, an Indonesian. The other two charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Song’s lawyers, Jonathan Wong and Genesa Tan from Tembusu Law, submitted for a maximum fine of $6,000 or for a pre-sentence probation report to be called for their client, citing unique mitigating factors in her case.
Song, a mother of children aged 11 and eight, had behaved “completely out of character” and was suffering from persistent depressive disorder due to personal circumstances, the lawyers contended.
Song had hired Deni in September 2009 after being unable to juggle work and the care of her two children. The maid stayed with the family all the way until late 2015, when she returned to Indonesia to get married. Song was eager to employ Deni upon her return in 2018.
Employer and maid shared a close bond, said defence lawyers
According to the defence lawyers, Song and Deni shared “a bond that was akin to one between sisters”. Both shared the same birthday month, so they always celebrated birthdays together.
Song also frequently brought Deni along for family holidays, outings, and treated her as a confidante, even to the time that Song underwent a divorce, which caused her anxiety and stress.
Song then bought a kimono which “represented the final purchase she was able to splurge on as her divorce has placed her under a lot of financial strain”, the lawyers said. Song then gave Deni specific instructions on how to properly care for the kimono, however the maid disregarded her instructions and damaged the kimono.
When Song confronted the maid about the damage, Deni allegedly denied her oversight and said, “(No) matter how nice you dress, your man would still leave you”, according to the lawyers. Stunned, Song argued with the maid.
In late April 2018, Song arrived home from work and noticed further damage to her silk kimono. She confronted Deni over the damage but the latter said that she was not responsible for it.
“When (Deni) denied her oversight for the second time, (Song) lost her patience and cool and slapped (Deni) once,” said the lawyers.
“(Song) had been especially hurt as Deni knew both the monetary and sentimental value of the kimono. As this was not the first occurrence, (Song) could not help but feel that (Deni) had intentionally damaged the kimono,” they added.
Sought assistance at Centre for Domestic Employees
On 26 June 2018, the maid went to the Centre for Domestic Employees to seek assistance and was referred to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). She left behind a note apologising to her employer, who felt “extremely heartbroken and abandoned”.
Deni then told MOM that she had not been receiving her monthly salary of $670 from Song since June 2017, and there were occasions when Song had slapped her.
Song admitted to slapping Deni on three occasions. Apart from these incidents, Deni did not experience any other form of physical or psychological abuse during her employment, according to the prosecution.
Song has since paid Deni all outstanding salary owed and no longer employs Deni.
In mitigating for their client, the lawyers pointed out that had Song “been anything short of a kind, understanding and fair employer, (Deni) would not have voluntarily sought employment with (Song) a second time in 2018 when she returned to Singapore.”
They added that Song was deeply remorseful for her actions.
For causing hurt, Song could have been jailed for up to two years and fined a maximum of $5,000, or both. For hurting a maid under her employ, she could have faced one-and-a-half times the maximum penalty.
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