Karl Liew’s charge amended to lesser charge in Parti Liyani case: Minister K Shanmugam says it’s normal for AGC to proceed on amended charges

Karl Liew’s charge amended to lesser charge in Parti Liyani case: Minister K Shanmugam says it’s normal for AGC to proceed on amended charges

“It is normal for the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to proceed on amended charges”, as well as to take other charges into consideration for the purposes of sentencing when an individual elects to plead guilty.”

“This is regularly done; in fact, it is the norm in cases involving a plea of guilt.”

This was said by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, in response to a parliamentary question filed by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Ms Hazel Poa, over concerns regarding the charges against Karl Liew Kai Lung, son of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, in the case of migrant domestic worker Parti Liyani.

On 14 April, Karl was sentenced to two weeks of imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to 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.

Ms Poa had asked for the reasons for not pressing charges against Karl under section 177 of the Penal Code for furnishing false information to a public servant and section 193 of the Penal Code for giving false evidence, as announced by the Police on 4 November 2020; and whether he will ask the Attorney-General to make the reasons public.

Mr Shanmugam stated, “In November 2020, the Prosecution preferred two charges against Karl under sections 177 and 193 of the Penal Code.”

“These charges were for furnishing false information to the Police and giving false evidence in judicial proceedings, respectively. Karl eventually pleaded guilty in March 2023 to an amended charge under section 182 of the Penal Code for giving a false statement in Court (instead of under section 193 of the Penal Code).”

“The other charge against him under section 177 of the Penal Code for giving false information to the Police was taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.”

s193 carries a maximum imprisonment term of seven years, and shall also be liable to a fine while s182 carries a prescribed penalty of imprisonment, which may extend to one year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Mr Shanmugam emphasized that the case was dealt with in a standard manner and that there was nothing exceptional about it.

The Minister clarified that the statement that the Prosecution did not press charges under section 177 of the Penal Code against Mr Karl is inaccurate.

“It gives the impression that the charge was not before the Court or was otherwise withdrawn, ”

He added that the charge was in fact taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.

He also clarified that the Attorney-General had recused himself from the case.

“It was the AGC which decided to prefer charges against Mr Karl in the first place, and they carefully considered the facts. ”

Addressing the factors considered by the Prosecution, Mr Shanmugam said, “In assessing the charges to proceed on and to take into consideration in a plea of guilt, factors which are generally taken into account by the AGC include the strength of the Prosecution’s case, the accused person’s level of co-operation with the investigation authorities and any relevant personal mitigating circumstances.”

He added, “In Karl’s case, the Prosecution considered these same general factors in deciding to accede to the representations made by Karl’s lawyers and accept the guilty plea by Karl.”

Prosecution’s submission read like mitigation

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 the presiding judge, District Judge (DJ) Eugene Teo disagreed, stating that “nothing less than an imprisonment sentence is due for such cases.”

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’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.

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