Closed-door disciplinary tribunal hearing against prosecutors in Parti Liyani trial concludes

The disciplinary tribunal hearing against Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Tan Wee Hao and Tan Yanying over their conduct in former domestic worker Parti Liyani‘s trial concluded on Wednesday (9 Sep).

The closed-door hearing was originally slated to be held between 6 Sep to 13 Sep. It was, however, noted earlier that the hearing may or may not take up all the days allocated for it.

Ms Parti was represented by lawyers Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi from Peter Low & Choo LLC. Counsel Anil Balchandani from Red Lion Circle, who represented her in her trial and appeal on a pro bono basis, testified as witness.

The Indonesian national was accused of stealing 114 items worth S$50,856 belonging to her former employer, ex-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, as well as his family members, namely his son Karl Liew and daughter-in-law Heather Lim Mei Ern and their daughter Liew Cheng May.

Her conviction was overturned by High Court judge, Justice Chan Seng Onn on 4 Sep 2020.

ST previously reported a spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) as saying that Ms Tan has engaged senior counsel Davinder Singh from Davinder Singh Chambers while Mr Tan will be represented by senior counsel Jason Chan from Allen & Gledhill.

The AGC spokesman explained that the DPPs were being represented by lawyers from the bar instead of counsels from the AGC, as the Legal Profession (Disciplinary Tribunal) Rules do not allow state counsels to represent the DPPs.

However, state counsels have been allowed to be present at the proceedings during the leave stage to provide assistance to the Court where appropriate and “enable the DPPs to understand the complaint that was being made against them,” said the spokesman.

Based on what was said, it is likely that AGC is footing the bill for the two top lawyers in Singapore for the disciplinary tribunal hearing.

TOC has written to AGC to confirm if the agency is paying for the two counsels hired to represent their prosecutors, and will include AGC’s response when we receive a reply.

Chief Justice gave green light in Oct 2020 for disciplinary proceedings to commence

In October 2020, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon gave Ms Parti the green light for her complaint against the two DPP’s to be heard. The Disciplinary Tribunal is appointed by the Chief Justice.

It was reported that Ms Parti’s originating summons was taken out on ex-parte basis, meaning the decision is decided by a judge without requiring all of the parties involved to be present.

This prompted the AGC to seek to be represented at the application hearing.

The AGC also applied to submit court notes related to the case and relevant extracts of evidence given by Ms Parti and other witnesses.

Additionally, it also applied to place extracts from the record of proceedings in the State Courts trial, including relevant extracts of the court notes from part of the appeal hearing on 1 November 2019 by Ms Parti before Justice Chan.

CJ Menon in a written judgement stated — in reference to a Pioneer DVD player Ms Parti was accused of stealing — that Ms Parti “contends that the DPPs had, in their conduct of the trial, concealed material facts and thereby created the false impression that the device was fully functional”.

“She contends that but for the false impression that had been conveyed, she would not have agreed, under cross-examination, that the device was operational.

“On this basis, the DPPs suggested that she had lied about the circumstances in which the device came to be in her possession. However, if she had been apprised of all the facts, there would have been no basis for the DPPs to suggest that she had been lying,” ruled CJ Menon.

High Court earlier dismissed Parti Liyani’s compensation application

Ms Parti had earlier made an application for compensation against the DPPs in her case.

Her application for compensation, made under Section 359(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, is the first of its kind to have been made in Singapore under this section after it was introduced in 2010.

In dismissing Ms Parti’s application on 21 June, Justice Chan said that Ms Parti had failed to meet the high threshold to prove the assertions made against the Prosecution.

He took the view that the scope covering the Prosecution under Section 359(3) refers to the decision to prosecute and to continue the said prosecution, and does not apply to the conduct of the prosecution during the proceedings.

Even if the DPPs had failed to disclose the functionality of the Pioneer DVD player Ms Parti was accused of stealing, that would only relate to one item of one of the charges.

It is therefore insufficient to prove malice on the part of the DPPs, he reasoned.

Background on Parti Liyani’s trial and appeal

Ms Parti was convicted in Mar 2019 of stealing items belonging to the senior Liew and his family — his son Karl Liew in particular. Ms Parti’s employment was abruptly terminated on 28 Oct 2016.

Mr Liew had asked Mr Karl to oversee Ms Parti’s termination and repatriation process to Indonesia, as the former was abroad at the time.

Prior to being sent back to her home country, Ms Parti was given only three hours to pack her belongings despite having worked for the family for almost nine years.

Mr Liew subsequently reported the purported theft on 30 October the same year after returning to Singapore.

Less than two months later, Ms Parti was arrested at Changi Airport on 2 December upon her return to Singapore.

Ms Parti was charged with stealing items totalling S$50,000.

The amount, however, was reduced to S$34,000 when District Judge Olivia Low removed several items from the charge sheet and reduced the estimated value of certain items, such as knocking down the value of a damaged Gerald Genta watched from S$25,000 to S$10,000.

Judge Low sentenced Ms Parti to two years and two months of jail after removing items from and reducing value on the allegedly stolen items that Mr Anil had successfully disproved in the State Courts hearing.

The prosecution originally sought a three-year jail sentence.

Ms Parti then filed an appeal against the conviction which was heard by Justice Chan Seng Onn.

After three days of hearings between Nov 2019 to August last year, Justice Chan on 4 Sep 2020 ultimately overturned the conviction from the lower court as he finds them unsafe.

In allowing Ms Parti’s appeal against her conviction and jail sentence of two years and two months, the High Court branded the Liew family as having “improper motives” against Ms Parti.

The “improper motives” revolved around Mr Liew and his son Karl Liew’s plans to lodge a police report against her to stop her from notifying MOM regarding the cleaning work she was made to do at Mr Karl’s home at 39 Chancery Lane and his office at Killiney Road.

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