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SINGAPORE: A woman who was found guilty of mistreating two of her domestic helpers at her Sentosa Cove residence was on Friday (Jan 27) sentenced to 10 months’ jail and ordered to pay compensation to each of the victims.

Tan Lee Hoon, 58, had denied hurting the two domestic helpers during a trial that began in December 2020.

She was convicted for seven out of eight charges of voluntarily causing hurt by the district courts last December and was granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal for the remaining charge.

In sentencing Tan for the seven charges, District Judge Salina Ishak said on Friday that a custodial sentence is usually warranted in cases that involved physical abuse of domestic helpers.

Given their vulnerable status, there was a need for public deterrence against abuse by employers towards their helpers, she said.

Her defence lawyers said in court that she intends to file an appeal against her conviction and sentence.


All eight charges relate to Tan repeatedly assaulting her two Filipino maids, Ms Lizardo Joan Lozares and Ms Jenefer Vegafria Arangote.

The offences took place at Tan’s residence on Paradise Island, which is one of the five man-made islands at Sentosa Cove.

The acquitted charge relates to an alleged incident of Tan hitting Ms Lozares’ torso with a stick sometime in 2018 at the residence.

The court heard that Tan’s abuse of her two maids began in September 2018, a month after both Ms Lozares and Ms Vegafria were employed by Tan’s husband Sim Guan Huat.

Although Sim, 60, had hired the two victims, it was Tan who primarily managed their day-to-day duties.

Sim was sentenced to five weeks’ jail and an S$8,000 fine in May 2021 for illegally employing Ms Lozares.

The court previously heard that in one incident, Tan had hurt Ms Lozares by kicking her chest while the latter was helping her employer put on her socks and shoes.

In her evidence, Ms Lozares said that Tan was angry with her for putting on the socks wrongly.

Tan was also said to have pinched Ms Vegafria’s chest, stomach, left arm, right bicep and right thigh.

During the trial, it was revealed that Tan had several medical conditions, had difficulty sleeping and needed to be massaged at unusual times of the day because she was “injured”. The court heard that Ms Lozares and Ms Vegafria took turns to do this.


Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jun Chong had sought a jail sentence of between three months to eight months for each conviction, with a total imprisonment term of between 10 and 13 months.

The prosecutor also sought compensation of S$2,500 for Ms Lozares and S$5,100 for Ms Vegafria for their pain and suffering as well as their loss of income.

Tan’s team of defence lawyers, comprising Mr Derek Kang, Mr Ammar Lulla and Ms Ng Sock Cheng from Cairnhill Law, had argued that the threshold for a custodial sentence had not been crossed and instead sought a fine of between S$2,000 to S$7,500 for each charge.

In the alternative, the defence asked for imprisonment terms as short as one day to about a week per charge, amounting to one week to two weeks in total.

They also sought to lower the amount of compensation to be given to the victims.

In their submissions, the defence team argued that Tan had no criminal record, was generally of good character and had treated her domestic helpers well.

They also submitted character references by about 30 people including Tan’s friends, former domestic helpers and other individuals who had witnessed Tan’s interactions with her maids. The references generally vouched for Tan’s good character and how she had treated her household staff well.

In her oral remarks, District Judge Salina said that the protection of domestic helpers from abuse “is always a matter of public interest”.

This was due to their vulnerable status and the prevalence of employer and domestic helper relationships in Singapore.

Stressing that all domestic helpers must be “treated fairly with dignity and respect”, the judge said that a custodial sentence was “almost invariably warranted” in cases that involve physical abuse.

District Judge Salina said she agreed with the prosecution’s position that there was physical and psychological harm inflicted on the two victims.

For example, with respect to Ms Lozares, the judge found there was psychological harm in view of the “sustained pattern of abuse”.

The judge cited how although Ms Vegafria had worked for Tan for about three months, she was physically abused on at least five occasions.

District Judge Salina said the helper was afraid of reporting the abuse to authorities as she feared being sent home to the Philippines and blacklisted from working here.

The judge further agreed with the prosecution’s position that the working conditions for both victims were “oppressive and exploitative”. She cited examples of how Tan had imposed long working hours, docked salaries when she was not satisfied with their work, and did not give the victims enough time to eat, among others. 

Tan was handed jail terms of between three months to six months for each charge with two of the sentences to be served consecutively, adding up to a total jail term of 10 months.

Tan will also have to compensate Ms Lozares and Ms Vegafria with S$2,500 and S$5,100 respectively, in line with what the prosecution sought.

Anyone found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt can be punished with a jail term of up to three years, or fined up to S$5,000, or both.

In cases where the offences involve a domestic worker, the court may sentence the accused to one-and-a-half times the amount of punishment to which he would otherwise have been liable for that offence.

This story was originally published in TODAY.