What Comes After the Jury Finding
One of the more difficult, but sometimes comforting, aspects of being involved in a cause is that there’s always a new case to pursue, another direction in which to channel energy. I met with fellow members of the Justice for Vicky Flores concern group last night and we decided to move on after the jury finding that put her death down to suicide. None of us could possibly draw the same conclusion given the evidence available, but we accept that the finding brings us to the end of our campaign to ensure that justice was done for the woman and her family. Procedural justice will just have to be enough this time around.
But even as we spoke of how we felt, how we failed and how we succeeded, we were aware that other people need our help as well. Some things we can’t change, but some we can. Tomorrow we’ll sort through the Labour Tribunal case of a domestic helper who was used as free labour for a month, sacked and then shifted over to the apartment of the owner of the employment agency through which she was recruited for ‘extra training’ – a clear breach of contract, amongst a few others. It just so happens that the owner of the employment agency is the sister-in-law of the employer, who has filed a counterclaim with the Labour Tribunal. Pure maliciousness is an epidemic amongst employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
And there’s also the case of the domestic helper who has been living with my family since she was viciously beaten by her employer. The police investigation has been finalised but the case has been languishing in the Department of Justice for two months, while Hong Kong’s prosecution service decides on what charges to lay, if any. It’s worth noting that the courts in Hong Kong have a very large caseload and the Department of Justice decides on the charges laid in almost all criminal cases, so we have never expected swift action. Yet she can’t work again in Hong Kong until the case has been finalised, and can’t go home to Indonesia if she wants the case to continue. It’s a tough situation that requires a good deal of encouragement.
Two nights ago my wife took a call from a domestic helper who had been summarily dismissed after not being paid for two months. Each week we hear from someone else, someone in need when no-one else really cares. The area in which we live is affluent, not a coven of the spectacularly rich, but a neighbourhood that heavily features bankers, accountants, lawyers, pilots and other such professionals amongst its populace. Beneath them is an underclass of cheap labour, domestic helpers who have the full protection of the law but rarely enjoy the full extent of justice.
So on we move, a little less uncertain now because we know more about what to expect from coronial inquiries, from police investigations that extend further than cases of petty crime or accusations of indiscretion. If we focus on the positives it doesn’t mean that we’re not aware of what we’ve missed this time around. But next time, and that will be soon, we’ll be better prepared.