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Maid gets 6 months’s jail for slapping baby

30 July 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao 

There’s no excuse for hitting a child, an Eastern Court magistrate said on Jul 18 as she meted a six-month prison term on a Filipina who slapped her 18-month-old ward twice.

Carmela Sotto, 41, listened calmly as Magistrate Bina Chainrai rejected the defense’s mitigation that the maid was drowsy for lack of sleep and was startled when she hit the child. The defence claimed that Sotto had merely bent over to pat the baby girl in the crib to send her to sleep.

The diminutive maid pleaded guilty on Jul 3 when she was charged with “ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of child or young person”.

The prosecution supported its case with CCTV footage of the maid hitting the toddler on the face and body before midnight on June 3, when Sotto was told to look after her as the employers left their flat in Queen’s Terrace, Sheung Wan, for a night out.

On the car, the female employer remotely monitored the video camera in her baby’s room and saw the maid hitting the child. The bosses called the police and Sotto was arrested.

For her guidance, Chainrai asked the prosecutor to look into previous cases. The first involved another maid who hit her infant ward and was jailed for two years and nine months after conviction in a trial. The second case involved a father who hit his child and was sentenced to 20 months.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Sotto just momentarily lost her balance as she reached out to pat the child, who was trying to get up.

“This was a one-off incident. She was aware that there was a camera in the room. This was a result of a lack of sleep, she felt very sorry for hitting the baby,” the lawyer said, adding that in the present case the child did not sustain any serious injury.

Chainrai, addressing the maid, said: “I do accept the mitigation that you lost control of yourself because of your lack of sleep, but that is no excuse to hit a child.”

The magistrate said although the child did not suffer serious injury, still the offense called for custodial sentence. Chainrai sentenced Sotto to six months in prison, discounted from nine for her guilty plea.

Mission for Migrant Workers director Edwina Antonio, who accompanied Sotto to court, told The SUN that domestic workers should be very careful when handling children.

“Maging maingat sila sa lahat ng oras dahil mahigpit ang batas ng Hong Kong sa ganyan,” said Antonio.

She noted that several helpers had been accused and convicted of ill-treating children even if some of the acts were obviously unintentional. She reminded the workers not to plead guilty right away as they could still have a fighting chance and avoid conviction.

“Sa kaso ni Carmela (Sotto), gusto man namin siyang tulungang umapela ay hindi na puwede dahil nag-plead guilty na siya,” Antonio said.

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