District Judge says prosecution’s submission on Karl Liew’s sentencing reads like mitigation

District Judge says prosecution’s submission on Karl Liew’s sentencing reads like mitigation

SINGAPORE — A sentence of two weeks was passed on Karl Liew, the son of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, for lying in the case of migrant domestic worker Parti Liyani.

The sentence was delivered by District Judge (DJ) Eugene Teo at around 3.45 pm on Friday after an hour’s delay at the State Court.

On 20 March, Karl had pleaded guilty to a count of intentionally providing information he knew to be false to DJ Olivia Low during the trial of Ms Parti, an offence under Section 182 of the Penal Code, for having told DJ Low that two pieces of clothing (a cream polo ladies t-shirt and a red blouse) belonged to him when he knew that information was false.

Additionally, Karl is accused of making a false statement to a police officer at his home on 10 December 2016, indicating that he had discovered “119 pieces of clothing” in boxes packed by Ms Parti, which he claimed were his own. This was taken into consideration for sentencing.

Two charges of Sections 177 and 193 of the Penal Code were filed against Karl after the public outcry over the acquittal of Ms Parti by Justice Chan Seng Onn in 2020. Along the way, the Prosecution changed the s193 charge to a lesser s182 charge without any notice.

Ms Parti had earlier been sentenced to 26 months of imprisonment by DJ Low – who is now working in Attorney-General’s Chambers – on 25 Mar 2019 at the State Court over charges of stealing 114 items worth $50,856 belonging to Mr Liew Mun Leong, and three of his family members; his son and daughter-in-law, Karl and Ms Heather Lim Mei Ern, and his daughter, Ms Liew Cheng May.

She then filed an appeal against the convictions that were overturned by Justice Chan as he found them unsafe.

Both the prosecution and defence had submitted that Karl – who is an undischarged bankrupt – should be fined the maximum amount of S$5,000, but DJ Teo disagreed, stating that “nothing less than an imprisonment sentence is due for such cases.”

He also noted that a wrongful conviction could have resulted from Karl’s false testimony and statements.

Submissions by prosecution read like mitigation

Ms Parti was initially charged with the theft of items worth S$50,856, out of which S$46,856 worth of items were declared to have been stolen by Karl.

The sentence was reduced to 26 months as DJ Low had to remove certain items that were declared by Karl from the charges and reduce the value of the alleged stolen items to a total of S$34,000 due to the efforts of Mr Anil Balchandani from Red Lion Circle law firm who took the case pro bono.

Items removed are five pieces of clothing such as a black dress which Karl claims to have worn, and a broken watch which Karl valued at S$25,000 – DJ Low revalued it at S$10,000.

DJ Teo noted that his judgement would be limited to the two charges bought before him as the prosecution has focused only on a small segment of Karl’s testimony at the hearing in State Court and charged Karl for having knowingly offered up false evidence in court in respect of that small segment.

The judge also highlighted that the submissions by Deputy Prosecutor Kelvin Chong read like mitigation for the accused, which the defence copied wholesale.

“In that regard, I make primary reference to the submissions by the learned DPP because the material parts (which covered two pages) read like a mitigation and were lifted wholesale and repeated for effect by the Defence in its own Mitigation & Submissions on Sentence. Those parts conveniently form the main planks upon which the joint submission for a fine rested and which I need to respond to.”

DJ Teo disagreed with the submission by the prosecution that Karl’s false testimony caused no actual harm because the judge did not convict Ms Parti of the theft of the items based on the testimony.

The judge states that this approach is narrow and fails to consider the broader context as he believes that Karl’s false testimony resulted in police and prosecution being misled, Ms Parti being investigated and charged for a small part of the offence, and all parties having to expend time and effort in reviewing the probity of the false evidence.

DJ Teo states that the factors in the case constitute actual harm and that the judge’s decision not to rely on Karl’s testimony came after a process that was initiated by the false testimony. Therefore, he concludes that there was a basis to conclude that actual harm was caused in the false evidence charge.

DJ Teo notes that both the prosecution and the defence agree that the stolen items of clothing would not have significantly affected the sentence for the charge against the accused. However, he states that this sentence-focused approach ignores the fact that a wrongful conviction of the accused would have already occurred, which would have had serious consequences.

The judge said that it is abhorrent for the justice system to result in the wrongful conviction of an innocent person and that efforts must be taken to prevent it. He goes on to state that Karl’s actions in providing false evidence sought to defeat these efforts, and it is therefore necessary to take appropriate punitive action to maintain the probity of the justice system.

DJ Teo emphasizes that this is a grave violation because it goes against the most cherished and foundational notions of right and wrong.

DJ Teo notes that both the prosecution and the defence agree that there is no evidence of malice or premeditation on the part of Karl. DJ Teo accepts this point and notes that there is no explanation as to why Karl committed the offence, or why he viewed the legal processes and obligation to tell the truth with apparent callousness. Therefore, DJ Teo decided to sentence Karl based on the minimum level of culpability due to the lack of information on Karl’s motives.

In the judgement, DJ Teo acknowledges that Karl suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which was taken into consideration by the prosecution in their decision not to seek an imprisonment term.

However, DJ Teo notes that an evaluation by the Singapore Prisons Service has confirmed that the prisons can accommodate Karl’s condition. Therefore, DJ Teo believes that the principles laid down in Chew Soo Chun v PP require a moderation of the imprisonment term, rather than a complete exemption.

Ultimately, DJ Teo decides to sentence Karl to two weeks of imprisonment for his false evidence charge, taking into account the charge and facts of the case, as well as the mitigating factors presented by Karl’s counsel.

DJ Teo’s judgement emphasizes the importance of fair sentencing and upholding the integrity of the justice system. He states that Karl should not be exempt from punishment just because his counsel secured an agreement with the prosecution not to seek imprisonment.

DJ Teo notes that if Karl were in the position of being falsely accused and dragged through the legal process, he would demand a robust penalty to deter such behaviour. Therefore, he reasoned that applying the same rules and penalties to Karl is important to prevent others from suffering the same fate and to signal that such behaviour is not tolerated in the justice system.

Correction: Remission will only apply to sentences that are more than two weeks. So Karl’s two weeks will not be reduced.

PP v Karl Liew – GD on Sentence

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