Karl Liew’s defense argues against jail time due to Parkinson’s disease

Karl Liew’s defense argues against jail time due to Parkinson’s disease

by Stephanie Chok

Today (30 Mar), Karl Liew Kai Lung pleaded guilty to a count of intentionally providing information he knew to be false to District Judge Olivia Low during the trial of Parti Liyani, an offence under s182 of the Penal Code.

The charge related to two items: a cream polo tee and a red blouse. These were items of clothing that were later established to be women’s clothing.

For committing an offence under s182 of the Penal Code, a person “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both”.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) asked for a maximum fine of S$5,000. They did not ask for a custodial sentence on account of Karl Liew’s claim he has Parkinson’s disease.

There were also mentions of antecedents (the sound was quite bad in Court, so I just heard certain words mentioned: an incident in 1993 where there was a 12-month probation; something related to theft; something related to an offensive weapons charge; something related to theft; and, something related to fraudulent possession).

The judge noted that Karl’s defence team from Drew and Napier submitted three volumes of bundles.

Karl’s defence lawyer, Adam Maniam, had three key points to make to substantiate his argument for a maximum fine of S$5,000 for his client and no custodial sentence.

1) There was no appreciable harm caused;
2) There was low culpability on the part of his client, therefore no need to depart from the fine to impose a custodial sentence;
3) There were personal mitigating factors.

In relation to item 2, i.e. low culpability, Maniam went on to state these following points:

  • There was no premeditation;
  • Karl did not take any active or sophisticated steps in committing the offence;
  • There was no malice;
  • It was not repeated multiple times;
  • A few weeks before Karl took to the witness stand for Parti Liyani’s trial, in July 2018, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was extremely upset and anxious, and worried that his hand tremors would be noticed in Court. (To this, the Prosecutor responded by asking how stress would cause someone to lie.)

In terms of item 3, personal mitigating factors against jail time, defence lawyer Maniam went on to state how a certain Dr Chong had certified that Karl had Parkinson’s disease and that a custodial sentence (jail time) would severely impair his client.

It was alleged that Karl is unable to squat, and that his wife now cuts up his food. It was also alleged that he is now prone to falls and could thus injure himself. Imprisonment would thus have a disproportionate adverse effect on him, even if there were provisions made for him (e.g. non-slip floor and hand rails). Essentially, defence lawyer Maniam said a custodial sentence is not warranted.

After the DPP and defence lawyer Maniam made their oral submissions, District Judge (DJ) Eugene Teo asked the following questions:

  1. Were there any other related charges or proceedings from this case? Answer: No.
  2. DJ Teo pointed out that among the bundles provided by the Defence team, he did not see the credentials or CV of Dr Chong, who diagnosed Karl. The judge asked for this, and Maniam said this will be provided.
  3. DJ Teo asked for a confirmation letter from the Prisons Service, and the Prosecutor agreed to furnish this.
  4. DJ Teo said that from the Record of Proceedings of the lower court trial, it seems that the Prosecutor had maintained its position in its submissions in Court that the two items in question (the cream polo and red blouse) belonged to Karl and stolen by Parti Liyani. In the end, it was the trial judge (DJ Olivia Low) who reviewed the evidence and came to her own conclusion and finally removed these two items from the (amended) charge sheet. Defence lawyer Maniam said he was not aware of the position the DPP took at the lower court. DPP would get back to DJ Teo on this.
  5. DJ Teo asked if either the DPP or Maniam had case law related to Parkinson’s disease and sentencing. DJ Teo said he had not been able to find any. Both DPP and Maniam said they had not been able to find any as well.

Addressing Karl, DJ Teo acknowledged the three extensive bundles submitted by his defence lawyers. He said he will do a careful and objective review of the submissions.

DJ Teo then noted that nothing had been said so far about how Karl was coping with his anxiety.

Defence lawyer Maniam said that medication had been prescribed. DJ Teo then said that if Karl knows he has anxiety, he should be taking action, and as he is adjourning proceedings, he had no wish for Karl to suffer more consequences from the adjournment.

DJ Teo then gave another assurance that he will do a fair, careful and objective review of what had been submitted.

Sentencing will take place on 14 April, 2.30 pm, at Court 24D.

A side note:

Karl was originally charged with two counts on 5 November 2020:
a) one count under section 177 of the Penal Code for furnishing false information to a public servant; and
b) one count under section 193 of the Penal Code for giving false evidence.

At today’s hearing, the first charge, under s177, was stood down, and the second charge was amended to one count of s182 charge (from the original s 193 charge).

Editor’s note

On top of the two items, Karl is being charged for lying, he had also been accused by the defence lawyer of Ms Parti of fabricating his testimony over Ms Parti having stolen his watches, utensils such as knife and pots, and clothes which belonged her.

In fact, the bulk of the value in alleged stolen items comes from Karl.

Items alleged to have been stolen from Karl

While the two items were removed by DJ Low , Ms Parti was sentenced to 26 months of imprisonment with consideration of high cost attributed to the watches and items which Karl alleged to have been stolen.

At the delivery of her sentence on 25 March 2019, the DJ Low said that she did not see “any reason why the Liew family and (their) driver Robin would conspire to frame the accused for the theft, especially when they had employed her for a number of years”.

“They had in fact compensated her for the termination and was even willing to pay for the shipping of her items back to Indonesia,”

“On the contrary, the modus operandi of the accused was to take a variety of items from different family members thinking that these would go unnoticed by them.”

She said she found the prosecution’s witnesses – which included Karl – “largely credible and consistent”, and the victims were able to identify the items that belonged to them and what they did with it.

Instead of finding doubts in the case itself through the evidence provided by the Defence, District Judge Low amended the second charge by reducing the number of stolen items from 120 to 115 (each priced at S$150), removing two wallets from the list and reducing the value of a watch from S$25,000 to S$10,000.

Thankfully, Ms Parti appealed against her sentence and Justice Chan Seng Onn ruled to acquit the former domestic worker of all four convictions passed by DJ Low.

Justice Chan noted in his written judgement:

“In her decision to convict Parti on the 2nd charge for having stolen the 115 items of clothing that were in Karl’s possession, the Judge did not find the need to delve into the details of each and every item.

“Instead, it would appear that the Judge based the conviction on the fact that Karl “confirmed that he had never given [Parti] any clothes” and Mdm Ng only gave Parti clothes that were hers (meaning, Mdm Ng’s), and not anyone else’s.”

Further down, he said:

“Karl’s evidence was internally inconsistent and contradicted by the other witnesses. Karl’s testimony that he had in his possession multiple female items that Parti allegedly stole from him is also highly suspect.

“It is unclear how the Judge could have arrived at the conclusion that this was a result of Karl’s “inability to recall if some items had ever been in his possession”, especially when some of the items were observed by the Judge to be “smaller-sized female clothing” and wallets that “did not appear to be men’s wallets.”

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