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Police cleared of conducting undue body searches on Filipina maid

17 May 2018

The magistrate doubted the Filipina's claim of repeated strip searches

By Vir B. Lumicao

An Eastern Court magistrate has rejected an attempt to include alleged repeated body-searches and other misconduct by police in the defense evidence of a Filipina domestic helper accused of theft, as the main trial of her case began.

Magistrate Simon K.F. Ho also cleared the investigators on May 16 of complaints of misconduct brought up by the defense before the trial of defendant Margie Lotino started.

Ho said he did not find any material substance in the defendant’s accusations against the officers who arrested her and handled her case.

Lotino said that during the body searches, female investigators singularly or in pairs allegedly ordered her to strip down to her underwear then looked into her bra and panties for any stolen items. Only one report of the body searches was made.

But Ho said he did not see any reason to doubt the evidence given by the five officers, who all said during cross examination that they did not remember any of the incidents cited by Lotino. They were identified by Lotino in an ID parade and called to the witness stand on Apr 20.

Ho said he rejected the evidence of Lotino that various investigators bodily searched her, starting from the night they arrested her in the house of her employers in January. The bodily search reportedly continued at the Western Police Station, then to the Wanchai Police Station where she was transferred, then back at Western station.

The magistrate said he based his decision on the ground that the complaints against the officers were not mentioned in the affidavit that Lotino submitted in court. He said the charges were added when the case was already being heard in court. 

Lotino pleaded not guilty on Mar 13 to a charge that she stole $500 and a lip balm from her female employer on Jan 2.

When the case went to trial on Apr 20, she accused her employer, purportedly a police officer, of having set her up. Her lawyer raised the issue on the alleged police misconduct and asked Ho to call the officers to the witness stand to answer the accusations.

The maid said she signed a police statement admitting the offenses because she was cold, hungry, tired from lack of sleep and under intense pressure from the body searches and interrogations that lasted more than 14 hours before she was released on bail.

During the ordeal, the police reportedly refused to give her water or make phone calls to the Consulate or to the Hong Kong employment agency that deployed her.

Agency representative Melanie Fisher, taking the witness stand for the defense on May 16, said Lotino went straight to the agency distraught after being released by the police.

Fisher told her to rest, as it was then past 6pm and the Consulate was already closed. The next morning, she took Lotino to the assistance to nationals section where officer Danny Baldon met them, but he told them to return the following day because of a meeting.

As a result of the magistrate’s rejection of the defense’s proposal, the duty lawyer representing Lotino decided to call her again to the witness stand. But as it was already late in the afternoon, Ho adjourned the case to June 7.

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