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Filipina acquitted of stealing employer's discarded bags

21 February 2018

The Tuen Mun magistrate dismissed employer's theft claim

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic helper who was accused of theft for keeping two handbags she said had been discarded by her female employer was acquitted of the charge in Tuen Mun Court on Feb. 15.

Rosanna Rañola’s acquittal came after two days of trial before Magistrate May Chung,  who rejected the evidence given by the employer Lam Ka-wai.

Chung said Lam was not a reliable witness so the court could not accept her evidence. The magistrate cited the employer’s evasiveness when being cross-examined by the defense counsel, and her aggressive demeanor towards her maid.

Following her acquittal, the Filipina told the SUN that the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section is now helping her to file a case against her employer at the Labour Department.  

The magistrate cited that Lam did not answer why, on the night she allegedly found out the theft, she did not let Rañola talk to the police after telling her to call 999.

Cheung also dismissed Lam's claim that she did not know that a second bag had also been stolen until she allegedly saw it wrapped with clothes as Rañola was bringing out the contents of her luggage for inspection after serving notice of termination on Oct. 4, 2017

After the maid told Lam that she was quitting, the employer suggested she call for a police escort. However, when the helper did as instructed, Lam took the phone from her and spoke to the police in Cantonese.

The employer accused the helper of stealing the two bags when the police came in response to the call.

Rañola’s trial began on Jan 22. She had pleaded not guilty to the charge but chose not to give evidence. The maid, in her 40s, was hired by Lam in May 2016.

The employer accused the maid of stealing her bags, allegedly worth $1,500 each, after the Filipina said she was quitting her job on Oct 4 following an argument with Lam about her daughter’s school wear that the girl needed the next day but were still wet.

Lam had testified the last time she saw the bags was at the time of their move from Taiwai to Yuen Long in February 2017. She said she did not discard the bags as they were not worn out because she used them only twice a year.

However, during cross-examination, the defense lawyer took out a receipt dated Sept 15 from the pouch of the bag. It was for a purchase by Rañola, indicating she had openly used the bag on her days off and Lam could have seen it whenever she left or returned to the house.

In her testimony, Lam said she was not satisfied with Rañola’s performance, claiming that she had 20 previous maids but the defendant was the worst.

She said the maid’s performance had turned unsatisfactory since her family moved into a two-storey house in The Oakwoods in Yuen Long, from a 13th-floor  flat in Taiwai last year.

She said the maid had complained of doing more work since the transfer.

Lam said she told the Filipina she could leave only on Nov 2 because the helper must give her one month’s notice, but Rañola replied, “No! I want to go now.”

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