The case of Ms Parti Liyani, the domestic helper from Indonesia whose conviction for theft was overturned on appeal earlier this month took an unexpected turn after Ms Parti took to court on Wednesday (Sep 23) to seek disciplinary proceedings against the prosecutors in her case.
According to a CNA report Mr Anil Balchandani, the lawyer for Ms Parti attended a pre-trial conference in the High Court against representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for an originating summons to seek disciplinary proceedings against legal service officers.
The two deputy public prosecutors who dealt with Ms Parti’s trial are Mr Tan Wee Hao, and Ms Tan Yanying.
If successful, there may be proceedings to determine if there was any misconduct by the prosecutors.
If due cause is shown with proof that the legal service officer is guilty of misconduct, he or she could be punished under Section 82A, which governs misconduct by legal service officers or non-practising solicitors.
Penalties include censures, being struck off the roll, penalty of up to S$20,000, or any other order a disciplinary tribunal deems fit, the CNA report added.
During the case proceedings, when Justice Chan Seng Onn submitted his judgment on her acquittal, he outlined several issues with the conviction findings and how the case was handled.
Ms Parti was accused of stealing a DVD player, which she said had been thrown away by the family because it did not work.
Prosecutors later admitted they knew the machine could not play DVDs, but did not disclose this during the trial when it was produced as evidence and shown to have worked in another way.
This earned criticism from Justice Chan that they used a “sleight-of-hand technique… [that] was particularly prejudicial to the accused”.
He added that the condition of the DVD player was neither disclosed to the trial judge nor to Ms Parti. He called the DVD player incident “particularly prejudicial to Ms Parti” as she was not given a chance to test the player until the trial itself.
In addition, Justice Chan also questioned the credibility of Mr Karl Liew as a witness.
Justice Chan also questioned the actions taken by police – who did not visit or view the scene of the offences until about five weeks after the initial police report was made.
The police also failed to offer her an interpreter who spoke Indonesian, and instead offered one who spoke Malay, a different language which Ms Parti was not used to speaking.
Reactions from society
Last week, Workers’ Party (WP) Chairman Sylvia Lim filed an Adjournment Motion in Parliament to examine the issues that have arisen from the court case involving former maid Parti Liyani.
The motion, entitled “Justice For All: Enhancing Equity In The Criminal Justice System”, was filed on Monday (Sept 14) — 10 days after Ms Parti was acquitted.
In a statement released on Wednesday (Sept 16), the WP said that the motion filed by Ms Lim “will make reference to the deeper issues raised by the recent case involving Ms Parti Liyani”.
The opposition party added that Ms Lim, a lawyer, intends to “discuss aspects of the criminal justice system and the challenges faced by persons of less means in navigating it”. She will also propose specific suggestions to improve the system.
About the case
Ms Parti, an Indonesian, was employed by Mr Liew Mun Leong from 2007 till 2016. In addition to working in her employer’s home, she was sent on “multiple occasions” to work in his son’s home and office.
On Oct 28, 2016, the Liew family decided to sack Ms Parti and gave her two hours to pack her items and leave. She allegedly said that she would lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower about being deployed to work in the son’s home and office.
The Liews said they checked Ms Parti’s belongings out of concern that they could contain illegal items and allegedly found items that belonged to them. On Oct 30, the family filed a police report against Ms Parti.
However, the investigating officer allowed the family to use the items allegedly found in Ms Parti’s boxes as long as they did not discard them. The officer said he did not seize the items as he did not wish to “re-victimise” the family.
Ms Parti returned to Singapore on Dec 2, seeking employment, but was arrested at Changi Airport. On Dec 3, the investigating officer went to the Liew residence to take photos of the items — which would only end up in police custody nearly a year-and-a-half later, on April 18, 2018.
Ms Parti was interviewed by the police, with no interpreter present. A Malay officer translated the investigating officer’s questions from English to Bahasa Melayu.
She was charged in August 2017, claimed trial in April 2018 but was convicted on four counts of theft last March and sentenced to two years and two months in jail.
On Sept 4, 2020, the High Court overturned the convictions on appeal and acquitted Ms Parti of all charges. In his ruling, Justice Chan said that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and called the convictions “unsafe” given the presence of an “improper motive”.
Mr Liew has retired from his public service and business roles with Changi Airport Group, Surbana Jurong, Temasek Foundation and Temasek International. /TISG