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Filipina set free after winning appeal against indecent assault conviction

20 October 2017

The Filipina walked out free from the High Court
after winning her appeal
A Filipina domestic helper sentenced to 4 years and six months for an alleged indecent assault on her young ward was ordered freed at the High Court earlier today, Oct. 20, after her application for leave to appeal against her conviction was allowed.

The 46-year-old Filipina, a self-confessed lesbian identified only by her initials SRM in court, was released after serving 18 months of the sentence meted on her by District Court Judge Johnny Chan in April last year.

In allowing her application, the three Court of Appeal justices ruled that the lower court judge was wrong in accepting the young boy’s allegations against the maid when they were in fact contrary to the evidence presented.

They also held that Judge Chan was wrong in failing to properly consider the “inherent improbabilities” of the boy’s evidence, in particular his claim of having been coaxed by the maid into full sexual penetration while his penis remained soft.

SRM was convicted by Judge Chan on Feb 29, 2016 on three charges of indecent assault against the boy, referred to as "X" in court.

At the time of the alleged indecent assaults, between July 2011 and March 2013, X was between 8-10 years old. He did not make the allegation against SRM until July 7, 2015, when he was already 13 years old. He claimed he understood the nature of the  sexual assaults committed against him only after learning about animal reproduction at school earlier that year.

By then, SRM had long left the family, parting with them “on perfectly amicable terms” and even meeting with them socially on occasions afterwards.

In the first and second charges, the boy accused SRM of indecently assaulting him on two occasions one week apart in the bedroom that they share with X’s elder sister.  On both occasions X claimed there was penetration.

In the third incident, which took place in the bathroom, X said he sat on the toilet bowl cover and the appellant stood between his legs and held on to the cistern as he penetrated her.

The appellant, giving evidence, said the accusations were only made up by the boy for reasons she did not know. But she said the boy was not known to tell lies.

Chan, however, admitted the boy’s testimony as honest and reliable, while saying that SRM could not explain why X should have made up the accusations.  

The judge also said he believed that X had penetrated SRM because the boy was adamant he did so.

In their written judgment, the appeal court, led by Justice Andrew Macrae, said the case had been difficult to resolve, “not least because the verdict depended on the unsworn and unsupported evidence of the child of tender years making very serious allegations some years after the event against a domestic helper in a trusted position of unblemished character”.

They suggested that had the judge not allowed himself to fully accept the boy’s testimony and instead looked at the other parts of his evidence that could have supported the charge of indecent assault, then a conviction was still possible. They said sexual penetration was not necessary to prove a case of indecent assault.

“(However), what the judge was not entitled to do was find that X’s penis was “soft” when he clearly said it was, or that he must have penetrated “inside” her (SRM) when, on the account he gave, it would have been difficult, or in Dr Ho’s (expert witness) opinion impossible,” said the appeal court.

After ordering the Filipina’s release, Justice Macrae told her that she should go to her lawyer so the judgment could be explained to her.

Then SRM was to go Immigration“ for a few administrative formalities” before she is either repatriated or allowed to work again.

Justice Macrae earlier asked if there was anybody in the courtroom from the Philippine Consulate after being told by the defense that the helper might have some visa issue as her passport was held by the Immigration Department. There was none.

No retrial was ordered as the prosecutor, Eddie Sean, had said at the outset that he would not take further action if the appeal was allowed.

Concurring in the decision were Justices Ian Mc Walters and Derek Pang. – with a report from Vir B. Lumicao

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