02 Oct Woman to testify that she ‘heard voices’ after being sentenced to jail for maid abuse
SINGAPORE – A convicted maid abuser seeking to avoid jail time will be taking the stand to support her assertion that she heard voices that caused her to commit the offences.
Anita Damu, 51, is appealing against her jail term of two years and seven months for, among other things, pouring scalding hot water on her domestic worker and using a hot iron to hurt her.
The issue in contention between the prosecution and the defence is whether the convicted woman experienced auditory hallucinations at the time of the offences.
On Monday (Sept 30), Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon set aside the finding of a district judge who had accepted reports by two psychiatrists that Anita had auditory hallucinations.
The relevance and reliability of the psychiatric evidence was critically undermined by Anita’s failure to give direct evidence by testifying in court.
“In the absence of any direct evidence from the appellant, the district judge had no factual basis at all on which to make a finding as to the veracity of the appellant’s assertions that she had in fact heard voices and acted upon them,” said the Chief Justice.
He said Anita should testify as it was incumbent on her to present the best evidence available to support her assertion.
“This is something that is uniquely within her personal knowledge, and thus the best evidence is that of the appellant herself,” said Chief Justice Menon.
He said the fair course to take would be to give Anita the choice to take the stand, although prosecutors had argued that the psychiatric evidence should be disregarded entirely for the appeal.
In response, her lawyer, Mr Sarindar Singh, told the court that she will do so.
The case was adjourned for parties to work out the specifics of how this was to be carried out.
In September last year, Anita pleaded guilty to charges for various acts of abuse against her domestic worker.
She splashed hot water on the victim because the maid ate a longan fruit without her permission. She also burned the victim’s hands with an iron, claiming that she was slow in her work. She also poked the victim with a bamboo pole for making mistakes.
In mitigation, Anita asserted that she was suffering from major depressive disorder with features of auditory hallucinations, which made her commit the offences.
The prosecution disputed this. At the end of a hearing to determine this issue, the district judge accepted the psychiatrists’ diagnoses. Anita was sentenced to a jail term of two years and seven months and ordered to pay compensation of $8,000.
The prosecution and Anita both appealed against the sentence and the compensation order.