Domestic worker loses bid to strike out confession

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The Eastern Magistrates' Courts in Sai Wan Ho

A Filipino domestic worker who claimed she was strip-searched repeatedly by the police today lost her bid to exclude her police confession from the evidence against her in court.

Deputy Magistrate Simon Ho said he found “significant inconsistencies” in the testimony of defendant Margie M.L., who was accused of theft by her employer in Pok Fu Lam.

“I make the conclusion that (Margie’s admission of guilt in her police statement) was made voluntarily. None of (the body searches) were intrusive or oppressive,” Judge Ho said in his ruling this afternoon.

The domestic worker was arrested on January 2 at her employer’s home in Pok Fu Lam after her employer’s wife claimed that she stole $500 and a lip balm.

She initially denied taking the money but, in the caution statement she made at the Western police station, Margie admitted to taking the money after cleaning her employer’s room.

But in her testimony in court, the Filipina said what she wrote down in her caution statement was “dictated” to her and that she wrote them down because she was already “stressed out” by the alleged strip searches.

Margie also said that the police did not allow her to call her employment agency or the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) and did not listen when she asked for water and tissue paper when she wanted to go to the toilet.

“I was very embarrassed because they looked at my private parts repeatedly. I had no proper bed. I could not sleep because they made noise in my cell,” the Filipina tearfully told the court on April 20.

“I asked for water…I asked for tissue paper…for a call to the consulate or my agency so that they would know what happened but they did not even listen to me,” she added.

However, the prosecutor pointed out that the defense did not include these complaints—the lack of water, toilet break, or opportunity to call the agency or the PCG—in its formal “grounds of objection” that it submitted to the court.

The prosecutor noted that defendant mentioned these only when she testified and that the defense lawyer also did not raise these matters when she questioned the police investigators them in court.

“These were not put to the prosecution witnesses,” the prosecutor said, adding that the defense case appeared to be a “shifting case” or that new allegations were popping up late in trial. Judge Ho agreed.

“These (complaints) were not stated in the grounds of objection and were not put to (the police witnesses),” the magistrate said.

“I do not find any reason not to include (Margie’s confession) in the evidence (for her trial),” he added.

The judge also noted that a Filipina interpreter was present when Margie’s caution statement was taken. The interpreter testified in court that the defendant was neither forced nor induced to admit to the alleged crime.

“She (the interpreter) is a crucial witness. I do not find any reason why she would give fabricated evidence. I attach full weight to her evidence,” Judge Ho said.

Margie said the police conducted the strip searches at her employer’s home, at the Western police station, at the Wan Chai police station, and again at the Western police station.

The Filipina said she stripped down to her underwear and female police officers pulled her bra and panty and “looked inside.” At one instance, a policeman allegedly even entered the room while she was still only wearing her top and underwear.

The policeman allegedly carried a pair of scissors which were used to cut the cord on the waist of Margie’s pants.

When the prosecutor challenged her claim, the Filipina angrily replied: “Then how did those scissors get in there?”

“I asked (the police), ‘Why do you have me strip again and again?’ They said, ‘You just follow,'” the domestic worker added.

The police officers involved in the investigation said the Filipina underwent body searches but these did not involve removing her clothes.

One officer told the court that the domestic worker was handcuffed because she “did not listen to instructions.” But when asked what these instructions were, the officer could not remember.

“Are you suggesting they are telling lies? That’s quite a number of people telling lies,” the prosecutor told the Filipina during her cross examination.

“What they said did not match what happened,” the domestic worker replied.

Margie’s trial resumes on June 7.

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