Parti Liyani will proceed with application for disciplinary proceedings against prosecutors: NGO

Parti Liyani and her lawyer Anil Balchandani exiting the High Court on 4 September after her acquittal. (PHOTO: Grace Baey)
Parti Liyani and her lawyer Anil Balchandani exiting the High Court on 4 September after her acquittal. (PHOTO: Grace Baey)

[UPDATE at 9.40pm on 15 October: Supreme Court confirms that it has received Parti’s lawyer’s confirmation that she wishes to continue the application.]

With reporting by Wan Ting Koh

SINGAPORE — Parti Liyani, the former domestic helper of ex-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong who was last month acquitted by the High Court of four charges of stealing from her employer’s family, is still seeking the appointment of a disciplinary tribunal to investigate two prosecutors for professional misconduct.

In reply to queries by Yahoo News Singapore, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), the non-governmental organisation supporting Parti, confirmed on Thursday (15 October) that she is continuing with her application before the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court, has also confirmed that it received notice that she would like to continue with the application. “The Applicant’s counsel wrote in to the Court on 14 October to inform that the Applicant wishes to proceed with her application... The Court will issue its decision on the matter in due course,” a court spokesperson said.

Parti, through her pro-bono lawyer Anil Balchandani, had filed an application to the Supreme Court under the Legal Profession Act earlier this year for leave, or permission, for an investigation to be made into her complaint of misconduct.

She filed an affidavit in June in support of the claims of misconduct by Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Wee Hao and Tan Yanying. The duo had prosecuted her case at the State Courts before District Judge Olivia Low.

The application was made ex-parte, meaning that only the applicant was to be heard.

If the Chief Justice finds that there is a prima facie case for an investigation into a complaint, he may appoint a disciplinary tribunal to investigate the complaint and submit its findings in a report.

If the tribunal finds sufficient cause for disciplinary action, the Chief Justice may punish the prosecutors in the form of a censure, prohibition from applying for a practicing certificate, or be struck off the roll.

State Counsels to represent DPPs

After Parti applied for leave for the disciplinary proceedings, the Attorney-General’s Chambers applied for permission to be heard at the application hearing and to submit materials to the Chief Justice.

State Counsels Kristy Tan, Jeyendran Jeyapal and Jocelyn Teo sought to represent DPPs Tan Wee Hao and Tan Yanying at the hearing. Among other materials, the state counsels sought to submit court transcripts, evidence notes, and written submissions.

On 1 October, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon heard the application for leave and allowed the materials to be submitted. “I also saw no prejudice in allowing State Counsel from the Attorney-General’s Chambers to be present at the hearing to render any assistance or to respond to any questions I may have,” he said in written grounds.

Parti’s lawyer Anil however sought a two-week adjournment for his client to decide on whether to proceed with her application. While she wants the prosecutors to be answerable to her allegations, she was also overwhelmed by the high-profile acquittal, and “uppermost in his client’s mind is the fact that she has not been home to Indonesia for the last four years and that she naturally wishes to be able to return as soon as conveniently possible,” noted CJ Menon.

Furthermore, should Parti decide to proceed, she would likely have to appoint lawyers to prosecute the matter under the Legal Profession (Disciplinary Tribunal) Rules, as Anil himself might be called as a witness in the proceedings.

When initially approached for confirmation that Parti would be proceeding with her application, Anil referred Yahoo News Singapore to HOME.

At the hearing, State Counsel Kristy Tan also told CJ Menon that she would not object to a disciplinary tribunal investigation, which would allow the two DPPs to explain themselves fully.

‘Sleight of hand’

In his written judgment acquitting Parti of her charges last month, High Court judge Chan Seng Onn noted several issues with her conviction by the district court and how the case had been handled both by the prosecution and the police.

In one instance, 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 conceded that there were difficulties with the functionality of the machine, but did not disclose this to the trial judge or Parti, when it was produced as evidence.

Anil had accused the prosecution of using a “sleight-of-hand” technique to demonstrate in court that the Pioneer DVD player was working.

The prosecution’s actions earned criticism from Justice Chan, who said that the trial court could be misled into thinking that the DVD player was in good working condition when “questions were (and unfairly) put to Ms Parti... on the basis that the DVD player was still in a good working condition after an incomplete demonstration of its important functionalities during the trial”.

Justice Chan added that the rule against introducing evidence from the bar should apply equally to both the prosecution and defence, and said the DVD player incident was “particularly prejudicial” to Parti as she was not given a chance to test the player until the trial itself.

Among other things, Justice Chan also said that the Liew family may have had an “improper motive” in filing a police report against Parti. He also highlighted lapses in police procedures, such as a break in the chain of custody, while calling into question the credibility of Karl Liew – Liew Mun Leong’s son – as a prosecution witness.

In the wake of the acquittal, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said it would study the judgment and assess if any further action ought to be taken.

Meanwhile, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam cautioned against a witch hunt, even as the government undertakes a review – in pursuit of public trust and accountability – of its shortcomings in prosecuting Parti.

Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to the AGC for comment.

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