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High Court tells police to reinvestigate trafficking claims by abused Filipina DH

23 April 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


The court ordered police to reinvestigate the sex trafficking case against the convicted doctor

In an unprecedented move, the High Court has ordered the police to reinvestigate whether a Filipina domestic worker who was sexually abused by her octogenarian employer was also a victim of sex trafficking and forced labour.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, Judge Russell Coleman also said the case of the Filipina named as "CB" in the case showed the need for Hong Kong to have a “bespoke” or specific legislation criminalizing trafficking in persons and forced labour.

“In conclusion, I think the facts of the CB case do establish the ‘causal connection’ between the particular failures in the case and the lack of a bespoke criminal offence,” said Judge Coleman.


He also said such legislation should not only cover FDHs as urged by CB’s counsel, Abraham Chan, SC, but to all other people who might be victims of forced labour and exploitation under section 4 of the Bill of Rights.

Thus, Judge Coleman told the police to widen its investigation to include at least two other Filipinas who had also worked for CB’s expatriate employer and were shown on video to have engaged in sexual acts with him.

In a statement issued through her solicitors, Patricia Ho and Associates, CB said she was happy that the court had acknowledged the need to have a law that deals specifically with  human trafficking and forced labour.

Pindutin para sa detalye

"I hope the police will be more aware of the everyday exploitation of helpers. Maybe they will revise not only their laws but how they approach investigation of these matters. In my case, there were too many lapses and they did not see the wider picture," she said.

The court heard that CB, now 44 years old, was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by her employer named in court as Z, a retired British doctor, after she was hired in September 2018.

Z, who is now aged 85 and identified in the lower court as Dr Brian Apthorp, was eventually charged of two counts of indecent assault at Eastern Court. He was convicted of both charges and sentenced to 30 months in jail.


He is now appealing against both his conviction and sentence at the High Court.

During his trial, the doctor was found to have groped and poked inside CB during a supposed “body check” in August 2018, before signing her up.

About three months after CB was hired, the previous helper Janice, left, and CB was made to take over the task of doing a daily body massage on a fully naked Z and help him masturbate.

Once a week, during days Z called “Whipping Thursday”, CB was made to use various whips and devices on the employer during the massage sessions for his sexual gratification.

Press for details

The doctor also made CB watch a video clip showing him having sex with Janice, the Filipina helper she replaced.

Sometime after Z left for his annual vacation in France in April 2019, CB saw other videos and photos showing the employer engaged in sexual acts with various women, including Janice and other previous helper.

CB took the chance to notify the doctor of her intention to quit her job, although the accused claimed that is was he who terminated their contract in July 2019.

After CB filed a complaint to the police in December 2019, a frontline officer determined that the case met three criteria of TIP, and recommended further investigation by a body created for this purpose. Her superior endorsed her recommendation.


But a senior officer, without interviewing CB and relying on a letter supposedly written by Janice and handed in by Z who suggested the applicant had lied about her ordeal, overruled the junior officer’s recommendation.

No further attempt was made to contact the other alleged victims directly, and the force  eventually concluded CB was not a victim of trafficking nor was she recruited for the purpose of forced labour.

In his judgement, Justice Coleman said the police had failed to take into account a number of facts in the case which could have led them to determine that CB was recruited precisely for the purpose of sex exploitation.

These included (1) video evidence of Z engaging in sexual acts with his previous FDHs, including Janice; (2) CB was recruited specifically to replace Janice; (3) CB was sexually assaulted during her recruitment on the guise that it was part of the recruitment process; (4) CB was routinely sexually assaulted as soon as Janice had left Z’s employment; (5) the sexual assault on CB were similar to the sexual acts between Janice and Z as shown in the videos; (6) it was not necessary  to have a larger or more organized scale of activity to give rise to suspicion of trafficking, although in this case this element was also demonstrated and (7) even granting that some monetary or commercial gain would have excluded CB’s claim from the ambit of TIP, the case clearly showed Z was obtaining sexual services at no cost and for which he would otherwise have had to pay someone else.

Judge Coleman said such public law failures had led to police investigations into TIP and forced labour in this case being prematurely curtailed.

“The consequence is that the investigations should be revived (and) the revived investigation should not be limited to the position of CB alone,” said the judge.

CB’s case was heard simultaneously with another forced labour claim filed by another Filipina domestic worker identified only as “AM,” who however, failed in her bid.
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