Police told to reconsider abused helper’s case

The High Court on Friday ordered the police to reconsider whether a foreign domestic helper who had been sexually assaulted by her employer after recruiting her is a victim of trafficking and forced labour.

In ruling in favour of the 44-year-old Filipina, identified as ‘CB’ in court, Judge Russell Coleman also said the failures as regards the police investigation were the result of the lack of specific legislation in Hong Kong criminalising forced labour.

The court heard that CB was subjected to various forms of sexual abuse by her employer Z, a retired expatriate doctor, after she was hired in September 2018.

She reported her ordeal to the police in December 2019, though officers concluded she wasn’t a victim of trafficking because of insufficient evidence nor was she recruited for the purpose of forced labour.

After investigation, Z was charged with and convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

In his judgement, Justice Coleman said the force had failed to take into account a number of facts in the case, and had those matter been considered, he believed detectives would have at least found credible suspicion that CB was recruited precisely for the purpose of sex exploitation.

“The failures which have been identified in the CB case demonstrate that the constitutional investigative duty imposed by [article 4 of the Bill of Rights] does not fit well with a criminal justice system which has no specific criminal offence targeting forced labour,” the judge wrote.

He went on to say that without an applicable legislative framework, officers are left to focus on existing offences.

“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,” Coleman remarked.

CB issued a statement through her law firm saying she was happy that the court had recognised it’s about time to revise the law.

“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.