Single ma sent to jail for overstaying

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Shatin Law Courts building

A mother of two boys was sent to jail after pleading guilty to overstaying for two years and four months in Hong Kong.

The boys were seen playing outside Court 1 of the Shatin Magistracy, unaware that their mother was already sent to jail and the next time that they would see her, she would be in custody.

Magistrate Winnie Lau Yee-wan on Sept. 8 sentenced M.L. Galdo to nine weeks in prison, but reduced it to six weeks following the Filipina’s guilty plea.

Galdo’s duty lawyer told the court that following the dismissal of Galdo’s non-refoulement claim, she was withdrawing appeal.

The defendant’s tourist visa expired on Oct. 29, 2010, but she overstayed in Hong Kong and surrendered to the Immigration Department on Mar. 4, 2013.

The 42-year-old defendant was single and was a former domestic helper in Hong Kong. She then lived with her boyfriend, an Indian, and they had two sons, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. In the Philippines, Galdo also had children.

Her duty lawyer pleaded for leniency, saying the defendant surrendered to authorities, had a clear record, and pleaded guilty.

“The defendant asks for leniency and for the court to consider that she is the only one left taking care of her children,” the duty lawyer said.

He also added that the United Nations agency International Organization for Migration was assisting Galdo so she and her children could go home to the Philippines.

The IOM, the duty lawyer added, would pay for the flight tickets of Galdo and her children.

A representative from the IOM was present in court during the proceedings.

The lawyer also submitted to the judge a letter from the father of the children, stating that he did not want to take care of the kids.

However, Judge Lau said a deterrent sentence was needed owing to the length of the period that Galdo had overstayed in Hong Kong.

“Even if I sentence the defendant, it’s going to be for a short period of time,” Judge Lau said.

During the sentencing, Galdo was seen wiping tears from her eyes.

The magistrate also directed that a social worker be assigned to ensure that the defendant’s children would be taken care of and to extend assistance to them.

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