SINGAPORE — The one-month gap between the time that a police report was filed against former maid Parti Liyani for theft and officers visiting the alleged crime scene was a lapse for which there can be “no excuse”, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Wednesday (4 November).
The lapse was a breach of both the law and police procedures which state that officers must respond to a crime scene promptly or as soon as possible, he told the House in his ministerial statement on the high profile case.
The police report was filed by her then employer, former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, on 30 October 2016, but the police only looked at the allegedly stolen items on 3 December 2016.
As a result of the lapse, there was a break in the chain of custody of some of the exhibits.
Shanmugam explained that the broader objective of the requirement for officers to attend to a crime scene promptly is “to ensure the integrity of relevant evidence by securing it into police custody or otherwise obtaining a proper record of it”.
Whether officers actually seize evidence will depend on the nature of the exhibits, he said.
However, even where there is no seizure, a proper record must be made of the evidence, such as by careful photography of the items. In the Parti Liyani case, this was not done, he pointed out.
Internal probe into police officers’ conduct
Shanmugam revealed that the investigation officer in charge of the case was busy with ongoing prosecutions, arrest operations and a very personal matter, without elaborating.
“He seems to have been under a lot of pressure,” the minister said.
The police are conducting internal investigations in relation to the conduct of officers involved in the case and “action will be taken as necessary”, he added.
Shanmugam said he has also asked for a review of the workload of police investigators, although he conceded that “there is no easy solution because it is fundamentally a manpower issue”.
The police are also looking into online case management systems to help officers in investigative workflows and ensure accountability while minimising the risk of lapses in investigations, he added.
On the High Court’s comments that some police photographs of the evidence were of poor quality, Shanmugam said those comments are “fair” and that the police will take them on board.
The police review found that the layout of the photographs was not satisfactory – some photos showed multiple items in a frame with some items overlapping and others partially obscured.
Meanwhile, the police will also take on board the High Court’s comments in relation to the recording of statements, Shanmugam said.
Among other things, these include the time in which statements are recorded and the pace at which questions are asked.
“Sometimes the timing is inevitable because of the legal requirement to release a person under investigation, within 48 hours. The police will have to make an assessment on whether the person is capable of understanding the questions at the time the statements are taken,” he added.
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