04 Nov 2020

Ministerial Statement on Parti Liyani v Public Prosecutor [2020] SGHC 187 (Part 1) - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Mr Speaker Sir, thank you for allowing me speak on this.

 

(I) INTRODUCTION

 

  1. In March 2019, Ms Parti Liyani (“Ms Liyani”) was convicted in the State Courts (“State Courts”) on four theft-related charges. She was sentenced to 26 months’ imprisonment.[1] She appealed to the High Court against her conviction and sentence, and on 4 September 2020, she was acquitted on all the charges by the High Court.[2]

     

  2. A number of questions have been raised following her acquittal. They centre around: (a) How did the Police and AGC handle the case? (b) How should the State Courts’ Judgment be assessed, given the High Court’s views?

     

  3. These are important questions. There has been much attention on this case. Members have filed questions and there have been many news reports and commentaries on this since September.

     

  4. There has been interest because underlying these questions, which are specific to the case, there is a broader, more fundamental question: Did a powerful man, Mr Liew Mun Leong (“LML”) work the system to his advantage? Did the Police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”) unfairly prosecute Ms Liyani, because LML was the complainant? Did Ms Liyani get a fair trial in the State Courts? Do we have one law for the wealthy, socially connected, and another for the rest of society?

     

  5. This fundamental issue is at the heart of many of the questions that have been raised and that question is of central importance to us. The credibility of our system, the foundation of our society depends on us ensuring that there is Rule of Law and that the Law applies equally to all. If that principle is compromised, then Singapore is compromised. It is a basic duty of the Government to ensure that that principle is upheld, and I take it very seriously.

     

  6. And so, it is good that we deal with this, with the questions that have been asked.

     

  7. I will start first with the case, the investigations, the conduct of trial and the specific questions which have arisen, relating to the case. It will be part one of my statement.

     

  8. I will then move on to Part 2 which will deal with the fundamental question as I have put them, and in part three I will deal with the questions that MPs have raised. May I suggest two things, Sir. It’s not going to be a short speech. At the end of part one, it may be appropriate to take a break and then come back for parts two and three. At the end of part one, and certainly by end of part three, we will probably know what’s happening in the US.

     

    (II) FACTS

     

  9. Let me start with the facts. The facts are as follows.

     

  10. Ms Liyani was an Indonesian domestic worker working in Singapore since 1997.[3] According to her, LML was her third employer [4] but MOM records show that LML was in fact her 7th employer. She worked for LML from March 2007 until 28 October 2016.[5] Her employment was terminated on that day.

     

  11. In Court, the following was said, and I am setting out what was said, and not commenting on whether it is true or false. Over the years, the family’s possessions went missing[6]. LML gave examples such as a bag he bought from Tokyo, his jogging shoes, and “a number of” Longchamp bags[7]. He suspected Ms Liyani of stealing but did not take action as he could not be sure.[8]

     

  12. A specially designed power bank from France, that was gifted to LML “disappeared”[9] a few days after he received it. Subsequent investigations show that this may have happened in May 2016. By then, the only occupants in the house were LML, his wife Ng Lai Peng (“NLP”), and Ms Liyani, though some others may have had access to the house. LML then decided to terminate Ms Liyani’s employment.

     

  13. In this context, I should add and I will come back to this later, subsequent investigations also show that earlier, in late 2015, the Liews were looking to replace Ms Liyani because they thought she was stealing things, but no firm decision was taken. In September 2016, they decided to terminate her employment and told the maid agency. Once a replacement helper was available, they decided to let Ms Liyani go.[10] LML was travelling, so he told his wife to arrange for people to be around and serve the notice of termination.[11]

     

  14. On 28 October 2016 at about 11am, Karl Liew (“Karl”), LML’s son, went to LML’s residence at 49 CL with employment agents, and this was at LML’s request. Karl told Ms Liyani they were sending her back. No reasons were initially given. Ms Liyani asked for reasons. Karl told her that “there are missing items in the house. And the only people staying in the house were my father, my mother, and you”.[12] She was asked to pack her belongings and given two months’ salary as compensation – in addition to that month’s salary. Ms Liyani asked for boxes to pack her things, and these were provided to her. She packed them with some assistance from the Liews’ other employees. She sealed one box with tape and wrote her address on it. The other two boxes were sealed by two other employees of LML. Karl agreed to pay for the boxes to be sent back to Indonesia. Ms Liyani left the house with the employment agent and returned to Indonesia that night. The replacement helper commenced her employment at LML’s house on the same day, 28 October 2016.

     

  15. When he got home, Karl told his wife Heather Lim (“Heather”) about what had happened. Heather told him that the boxes should not be sent back without knowing what was inside them[13]. On 29 October 2016 in the afternoon, NLP, Karl and Heather opened the boxes. They said they found items which belonged to them which they had not seen for years.[14] They spent about two hours going through the items. They also took a 21-second video.

     

  16. LML returned to Singapore some time on 29 October 2016. He spent a short time[15] going through the contents of the boxes, and on 30 October 2016 at 3.54pm, LML lodged a Police report at Tanglin Police Station.

     

  17. On 4 November 2016, a Police Gazette was issued. I will come back to this later, and deal with the Police Gazette.

     

  18. On 2 December 2016 at about 9pm, Ms Liyani returned to Singapore. She was arrested at the airport based on the PG. Ms Liyani said in her statement to the Police,[16] that she came back to visit a friend and go sight-seeing thereafter, and she planned to return to Indonesia before going to Hong Kong to work. Later in Court, she said that she in fact returned to Singapore to look for her agent and seek employment.[17]

     

  19. When she was arrested, some items were found on her. These are listed at Annex 1, Table A to my statement, which will be distributed later. There’s only one Annex before Members, that is a different Annex. But the others are outside. In the interest of time, we won’t distribute each Annex as I go through. The Liews said these were also stolen items. These items were seized and subsequently included in the charges against her.

     

  20. I will now deal with how the investigations were conducted by the Police, How AGC assessed the case and proceeded.

     

    (III) POLICE INVESTIGATIONS

  21. LML had lodged a Police report as I said earlier, on 30 October 2016.

     

  22. The Police report[18] stated that over the years, the family’s belongings had gone missing. They suspected Ms Liyani. They terminated her employment on 28 Oct 2016, and they found some of their items packed in her boxes.

     

  23. LML’s statement was then taken. Initial investigations showed that Ms Liyani had left Singapore on 28 Oct 2016. LML had set out in his Police statement the items which he said had been stolen. The items were, according to LML, found amongst Ms Liyani’s belongings in the boxes.

     

  24. Theft is an arrestable offence. Police needed to trace Ms Liyani to investigate further. Where there is reason to suspect that an arrestable offence has been committed, Police will try to find the alleged offender, and if appropriate, arrest the person. If the person is at a known address the Police can go and interview the person. If there is no known address or if the person is believed to have gone overseas, then a PG will be issued.

     

  25. And so, a PG was issued in this case. Ms Liyani was believed to have gone overseas.

     

  26. On 2 Dec 2016 at about 9pm, as I said earlier, Ms Liyani was arrested at the airport.

     

  27. On 3 Dec 2016, Police went to the Liews’ houses. They first went to Karl’s house. One of the three boxes had been moved there. Karl told the Police the items in the box were his. Police were told that the box containing Karl’s items had been brought back to his home. The box contained an assortment of items – clothing, bedding, kitchenware and utensils. Items were taken out, laid out and photographed. These photos were used in recording the various statements taken subsequently. The physical items were not seized.

     

  28. Police then visited LML’s house. Police were told that the two boxes had remained there. NLP recovered some items from the boxes – jewellery, accessories, watches, Gucci sunglasses. Police seized 51 items, and 21 items eventually formed the 3rd charge. They were said to belong to LML’s daughter, Ms May Liew (“May”). These items are set out at Annex 2.

     

  29. The Police did not seize all the items. They were seen as “daily use” items. The Liews claimed these items. Photographs were taken in lieu of seizure. Items found in those boxes are set out at Annex 1, Table B.

     

  30. The Police then continued their investigations. They took statements from Ms Liyani, the Liews, and other witnesses. The matter was then referred to AGC.

     

    (IV) CHARGING DECISION

     

  31. I will now set out how AGC proceeded, in coming to the charging decision.

     

  32. When AGC receives a file from the law enforcement agency, the Prosecutors will assess whether a charge is appropriate, and what action, if any, should be taken. The assessment and decision are usually cleared by a Director.

     

  33. Files are typically cleared at the Director-level, and not usually brought to higher management – by which I mean the Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor, Deputy Attorney-General or Attorney-General (AG) – unless they involve more serious or sensitive crimes, or where the AG’s consent to prosecute is expressly required.

     

  34. Ms Liyani’s case was no different. It went through the same routine and the charging decision was cleared at the Director-level.

     

  35. The events leading up to the charging decision were as follows. On 5 June 2017, the Police sent the file to AGC with their investigation findings and recommendations. Such theft files are routine matters handled by AGC. Over the last 3 years, AGC has dealt with an average of about 3,000 reports every year for theft in dwelling and theft as a servant offences. The file was reviewed by two DPPs. They asked the Police to investigate a number of further points. The Police did that and returned the file to AGC with further findings. DPPs then reviewed the file and sought further clarifications. The file was sent back to the Police, for further investigations. The Police conducted the further investigations. They then sent the file back to AGC, and DPPs reviewed the evidence again.

     

  36. This back and forth between Police and AGC is again, normal. In many cases, DPPs will look at the material, and ask further questions. And because of the system in AGC, depending on which officer is on duty, it will be different DPPs who look at the same file. And, that’s what happened here as well.

     

  37. From the Police and AGC’s perspective, this was handled as a routine theft case. There was no attempt by anyone to influence them. A police report was filed, and the matter was dealt with as such reports are usually dealt with.

     

  38. I will come back to this.

     

  39. AGC decided to charge Ms Liyani for two main reasons. There was sufficient evidence which showed that theft offences were likely to have been committed, and second, it was in the public interest to prosecute. Let me explain this.

     

  40. The evidence that was before AGC at the time was as follows. The Liews had identified all the items in the charges as items belonging to them and gave some detail.

     

  41. In contrast, based on what AGC saw, Ms Liyani gave answers which raised many questions. I will highlight some of these. Ms Liyani claimed that she had found some jewellery in May’s trash. May stated that she would never throw jewellery away. She would give unwanted jewellery to the Salvation Army, or friends. AGC’s assessment was that the evidence of May was more believable. Ms Liyani also claimed that she had found items such as a Prada bag, two Apple iPhones, and a pair of Gucci sunglasses in the trash. AGC did not find this to be credible. The list of items that Ms Liyani said she found in the trash (and their photographs) are at Annex 3.

     

  42. Ms Liyani also expressly admitted to taking some items, 10 to 15 items of clothing. Let me explain this. In her first statement dated 3 December 2016, Ms Liyani was asked how she came into possession of the male clothing. She said the clothing belonged to her employer. She said she took the clothing because the clothes were small. She assumed her employer’s son Karl would not want the clothes. She did not ask Karl whether she could take the clothes. She admitted to taking the pieces of male clothing in early-2015.

     

  43. In her second statement dated 4 December 2016, Ms Liyani said “I only took about 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging to my employer’s husband … I admit that I took it without informing my employer or her husband”[19]; and she also said “I only admit to taking the 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging to my employer’s husband without consent”[20] and “I did not steal any other items.” [21]

     

  44. Her statement that she did not steal any other items is also very significant. Prima facie, on the statements, this would appear to be theft. AGC assessed the case based on this and other material. I should add that under cross examination in Court, Ms Liyani said she was only given permission to take these items if Karl did not want them, but she did not ask Karl, meaning she just took the items.

     

  45. Ms Liyani also gave contradictory accounts to the Police on several other items. These inconsistencies are set out in Annex 4. I will highlight two instances of inconsistencies as illustrations – First, “Vacheron Constantin” and “Swatch” watches. In her statement dated 4 December 2016, Ms Liyani said these watches were gifts from a friend. However, in a later statement dated 29 May 2017, she said she had found these watches in May’s trash. Next, a pair of “Gucci” sunglasses. In her statement dated 4 December 2016, she said this was a gift from LML’s previous helper. In a later statement of 29 May 2017, she said she found it in her room at LML’s home, when she first started working for LML. I should add, later in Court, Ms Liyani was asked about these contradictions. She gave explanations. Her explanations are also set out in the table at Annex 4.

     

  46. Putting together Ms Liyani’s apparent inconsistencies, her answers on the jewellery, and the other items which she said she found in the trash like the Prada bag, two Apple iPhones, the pair of Gucci sunglasses, her other questionable answers, and her admission to taking some male clothing without permission, AGC’s view was that there was a case to prosecute. At that stage, the Liews’ position was that the items were theirs.

     

  47. AGC also took the view that there was a clear public interest in prosecuting Ms Liyani. Two reasons – One, it appeared that Ms Liyani had stolen many items, including some seemingly expensive items. Two, it appeared that she had been stealing for years, and it was not impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions.

     

  48. The question for members in this House in this case is: On what I have set out, what material, evidence did Police and AGC have? What does that show? Was there basis for AGC’s view, that the case should be prosecuted? That is why I have set out these materials in some detail, so that members can assess for themselves the basis for the decisions that the Police and AGC came to.

     

  49. I will now move on to the trial.

    (V) TRIAL

     

  50. The trial was heard in the State Courts over 20 days, from 23 April 2018 to 17 January 2019.

     

  51. The DPPs who conducted the trial were different from the DPPs who had previously been involved in the charging process.

     

    (A) MS LIYANI WAS REPRESENTED BY CLAS LAWYER

     

  52. Ms Liyani was represented by Counsel, assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (“CLAS”) for both the trial and the Appeal.

     

  53. I will come back later to CLAS.

     

     

    (B) STATE COURTS JUDGMENT

     

  54. Let me now turn to the State Courts Judgment.

     

  55. The trial Judge found serious inconsistencies in Ms Liyani’s evidence between what she said in Court and her previous statements. [22]

     

  56. The State Courts noted that Ms Liyani had various versions in relation to specific items. Ms Liyani said different things in her statement, compared with what she said in her evidence-in-chief in Court, and then sometimes changed her versions under cross-examination. [23]

     

  57. I have earlier referred to Annex 4, which sets out these inconsistencies, and also her explanations for these inconsistencies.

     

  58. The State Courts found Ms Liyani’s evidence on some items to be implausible. For example, the two old white iPhones – Ms Liyani said that she picked up two phones from a rubbish bag. These were iPhone 4 models, probably about 6 years old as of 2016. The State Courts preferred the Liews’ evidence that they would not discard old mobile phones as they were used as spare phones, or as hard drives to keep photographs. Next, jewellery – Ms Liyani said that most of the jewellery was picked from May’s rubbish in 2011 or 2012 and she did not seek permission to take them. May identified the items as hers, and provided circumstances of how and why she purchased them. The State Courts preferred May’s version as it was more detailed, and she came across as “honest and forthright”.[24] Ms Liyani said that a purple Prada bag and a pair of Gucci sunglasses with red stains were found in a rubbish bag. The State Courts accepted Heather’s evidence that these items were never discarded.[25]

     

  59. The Trial judge said the modus operandi of Ms Liyani was to take a variety of items from different family members, thinking that this would go unnoticed.

     

    (C) HIGH COURT APPEAL

     

  60. On appeal, the High Court acquitted Ms Liyani on all charges.

     

  61. The High Court’s decision was premised on two key findings. First, there was reasonable doubt as to whether the Liews had an improper motive for making allegations against Ms Liyani. Second, there had been a break in the chain of custody of the items, which were said to have been stolen.

     

  62. In addition, the High Court also expressed doubts about the credibility of the Prosecution witnesses, in particular, Karl. It also expressed doubts on the extent to which Ms Liyani’s statements given to the Police should be used against her.

     

  63. I will deal with all four points.

     

  64. I should say this – as a rule, we don’t comment in detail on Court decisions. Sometimes, we deal with specific issues that can arise from decisions, or comments. And when decisions raise broader questions, then this House has discussed the relevant Judgments, like the City Harvest Case.

     

  65. In this case, the High Court’s comments have given rise to the questions that I have referred to earlier.

     

  66. These questions require us to go back and carefully analyse the Judgment. It is difficult to discuss the law enforcement and legal processes here, in Parliament, based on the High Court’s comments, without a proper understanding of the comments.

     

  67. We also cannot make an assessment of whether the comments require us to change any of our current processes without looking carefully at the relevant parts of the Judgment.

     

  68. I will therefore be looking at parts of the High Court Judgment, to give the Government’s views on them, and based on that, I will set out what gaps there were in the investigations or conduct of the trial; and also say what more could or should have been done.

     

  69. But as we do this, let me make three points clear, and reiterate what I had said earlier. First, the High Court decision is final on the acquittal, there is no appeal. Second, I am also making no comment as to whether the High Court’s decision can be relied upon or whether the Judge’s comments can be relooked at in other proceedings. For example, in any proceedings that Ms Liyani or others are or may be involved. There are Rules of Evidence relating to these matters. Third, in this case, we have had to deal with the questions raised. Whether there were, are, any systemic issues with our law enforcement processes, and for that purpose, we have to discuss the Judgment, the Government’s view and also look at some additional factual materials which we came to know of after the Judgment was delivered. It’s therefore a narrow, specific purpose. This exercise is not one of reopening the Judgment, and I should emphasise that. We are going into detail only because it is necessary for the purposes I have explained.

     

    (VI) THE REASONS FOR THE HIGH COURT’S DECISION

    1. MOTIVE

  70. So, let’s start with first, the motive point.

     

  71. The Judge said, at paragraph 52 of the Judgment and I quote: “the Police report was made just two days after Parti made explicit to two members of Liew’s family of her intention to lodge a complaint to the MOM about being required to work illegally at Karl’s residence at 39 CL and at Karl’s office”.

     

  72. There are two points here. First, did Ms Liyani steal? And second, what was the Liews’ motive in making the allegations?

     

  73. If it is shown that there is a reasonable doubt, that the Liews had an improper motive, then what they say about Ms Liyani and the theft of items could become questionable.

     

  74. In this case, he High Court came to a view on motive, that there was reasonable doubt as to whether the Liews filed the Police report, to prevent Ms Liyani from filing a MOM complaint against them for having deployed her to work outside their house.

     

  75. Motive appears to have been the key factor in the Judgment. And we have looked carefully at what the High Court said at paragraph 52 of the Judgment, that Ms Liyani had made explicit to two members of LML’s family, her intention to lodge a complaint to the MOM, about being required to work illegally, at Karl’s residence at 39 CL, and at Karl’s office.

  76. The evidence is that as Ms Liyani was packing her things on the 28 October 2016, she said she was going to complain to MOM. She didn’t say what she was going to complain to MOM about.

     

  77. The High Court did note this, and said that Ms Liyani did not actually say that she was going to complain about having been made to work at Karl’s house or office.

     

  78. Thus, when the High Court said that Ms Liyani had made explicit to two members of the Liew family, that she was going to complain about having been made to work outside LML’s house, the statement was an inference that the High Court has made, based on the evidence and submissions before it.

     

  79. Based on this, the High Court also said that LML and Karl must have been concerned, and therefore there is reasonable doubt, as to whether they had a motive to make allegations and a Police report against Ms Liyani.

     

  80. The Court in fact said this threat by Ms Liyani on the 28 October to lodge a complaint with the MOM was “most critical”.[26]

     

  81. Second, the Court then said the Liews filed the “urgent” Police report on 30 Oct 2016[27] to ensure that Ms Liyani’s return would be prevented; and so that Ms Liyani cannot file a complaint to MOM. [28]

     

  82. Third, the Court said that the termination of her employment was sudden, so that Ms Liyani would not have time to complain to the MOM.

     

  83. I will deal with these three observations that the Court made, because it is these observations on the Liews’ motive, which have primarily led to questions in this case on whether there was any improper influence by LML on the agencies, which is the question centrally before us.

     

    (1) WHAT MS LIYANI MEANT WHEN SHE REFERRED TO MOM COMPLAINT

     

  84. When Ms Liyani said on 28 October 2016, that she was going to complain to MOM – what was she referring to?

     

  85. Annex 5 sets out what Ms Liyani seems to have said, and this is based on subsequent investigations. The subsequent evidence is that she said, “I want to complain, because you gave me too short notice”. She thus seems to have actually said more than what was in evidence in Court. Annex 5 also sets out why this part of what she said, was not in evidence in the State Courts. I will come back to this later.

     

  86. How and why was this subsequent evidence obtained? After the High Court decision was issued, there were internal reviews, as announced. AGC also directed the Police to conduct further investigations into whether any offences had been committed by the Liews. This information that I have set out, and other information, was obtained in the course of those investigations which arose from the High Court’s decision. To emphasise, as a result of the High Court’s comments, further investigations were conducted against the Liews. It was in the course of those investigations that this information came out

     

  87. As stated earlier, the evidence is that LML had been thinking of terminating Ms Liyani’s employment for some time, prior to October 2016 because he suspected Ms Liyani of stealing. He told NLP of this.

     

  88. The further investigations conducted after the High Court decision show that NLP told the maid agency by end-2015 that she wanted to get a new helper. She told the maid agency that she suspected Ms Liyani of stealing. She went to the agency a few times, to review bio-data of possible replacement helpers, but NLP did not make a firm decision. Sometime after LML received the power bank in May 2016, it disappeared. LML then decided to terminate Ms Liyani’s employment and told NLP. NLP visited the agency in September 2016 and chose a replacement helper. Ms Liyani was dismissed on 28 October 2016, because a new helper had become available on that day. According to LML, he had agreed with NLP that Ms Liyani would only be dismissed once a replacement was found. Based on what the maid agent has said to the Police, the new helper arrived in Singapore on 25 October 2016. On 26 October 2016, after checking with the maid agent on the status of the new helper, the family decided that Ms Liyani would be dismissed on 28 October 2016.

     

  89. On 28 October 2016, after Ms Liyani was told that her employment was terminated, Ms Liyani said, “I want to complain, because you gave me too short notice”.

     

  90. One of the maid agents who was present then, confirms this. He says, after Ms Liyani was told that her employment was terminated, Ms Liyani “shouted that she wanted to complain to MOM about the short notice of termination”. Ms Liyani did not say that she wanted to complain to MOM about anything else.

     

  91. As can be seen, this is quite different from the inference that the High Court had made.

     

  92. But the High Court understandably went on the basis of the evidence and the submissions made to it. The High Court did not have the benefit of this additional evidence. And as I have said, our purpose is not to reopen the High Court’s findings.

     

  93. Further investigations also reveal that on 28 October 2016, the maid agents offered twice to assist Ms Liyani with lodging an MOM complaint, but Ms Liyani declined. The first time was at 49 CL, when Ms Liyani first said that she wanted to complain. And the second time was at the agent’s office, before they left for the airport. Ms Liyani declined on both occasions.

     

  94. Ms Liyani lodged her complaint about illegal deployment after she was charged, in September and October 2017.

     

  95. As can be seen from Annex 5, the Prosecution did not obtain or put forward this evidence, because the issue had not been raised by the Defence in its Case for Defence, or at the pre-trial conferences. These points were thus not inquired into.

     

  96. Prosecution in general, puts forward the evidence it needs. For the charges, and to deal with the points that the Defence says it is going to make or raise. When a new point gets raised during the trial, Prosecution will have to assess how to proceed.

     

  97. In this case, the matter was raised when witnesses were on the stand and in Submissions. The Prosecution did not see a need to deal with the issue, by bringing in new evidence for the reasons set out in Annex 5. Annex 5 is a note prepared by AGC. I asked them to give me a note, setting out how this point on Motive was handled in court and the position that AGC took.

     

  98. I want to emphasize a few points. How a trial is handled, what evidence is led, is a matter for the lawyers involved to decide. I have myself been in such situations. When the other side raises a new point, do you deal with it, by going back and checking if there is further evidence? Or do you treat it as irrelevant? Or do you deal with it in Submissions? It really depends on the situation, the facts, and Counsel’s assessment.

     

  99. We are not here discussing the specifics of how the trial was conducted, and whether how it was conducted was right or wrong.

     

  100. My task before this House is to set out what happened, and what we have found out since the High Court Judgment. And based on that, examine whether there are any systemic issues, and whether there was any influence-peddling.

     

  101. I also emphasise, Members must take this further evidence in its proper context. It is evidence untested in Court. But since this has come up during the further investigations, as to whether the Liews committed an offence, I am duty bound to set this out in this House because it is in my possession. I cannot come here and go through the facts without telling you that we have this further information which only came about because the further investigations into the Liews’ conduct was directed by AGC.

     

  102. I will now deal with the second point that the High Court made, that the Liews filed the Police report to try and prevent Ms Liyani from making an MOM complaint.

     

    (2) FILING OF POLICE REPORT

  103. Making a Police report will not prevent Ms Liyani from returning to Singapore. The High Court made the same point to Defence counsel, during the hearing. Indeed, in this case, it didn’t stop her from returning to Singapore.

     

  104. And making a Police report will also not prevent Ms Liyani from filing a complaint with MOM if she was serious about doing so. She does not even have to be in Singapore to do that.

     

  105. If a MOM complaint was the key concern, filing a Police report, and having Police investigations is possibly a sure way for such a complaint to be raised. Should Ms Liyani attempt to return, Police investigations would also require her to remain in Singapore, once again offering her a further opportunity to pursue an MOM complaint against the Liews.

     

  106. The High Court has also said that LML’s reasons for filing the Police report were “curious”. LML had stated that he was lodging the Police report “for record purposes as he was afraid that her boyfriends might cause a nuisance or break into [his] apartment.”

     

  107. Looking at it, in this House: Ms Liyani had left, and had asked for three boxes to be sent to her. The Liews had opened the boxes and were not going to send them to her. They said they found items belonging to them in the boxes. They also said they were concerned that Ms Liyani’s boyfriends in Singapore might try to retrieve the items. In these circumstances, is it understandable that a Police report is filed? Is it possible to think that Ms Liyani or persons acting on her behalf will ask what happened to the items, and may accuse the Liews?

     

  108. I put forward these points on the filing of the Police report because for our purposes, in this context, the question is not whether the High Court is right or wrong. But rather, the question is: How did the Police and AGC proceed?

     

  109. Is there anything so obviously wrong about the filing of the Police report that should have been apparent to the Police and AGC? On the material before them, did the Police and AGC have good reason to proceed on the basis that this was a routine theft case? That is the central question. Not whether the High Court was right, wrong; State Courts – who says what. Did the Police and the AGC proceed in good faith based on the material before them, and what was before them?

     

  110. I am putting these points across so that Members can place themselves in the shoes of the Police and AGC and think of these points.

     

  111. And it is for the same reason that I will go through some of the other points which I will come to. But I may not keep repeating these points about why I am going into detail, as long as Members understand the purpose of much of what I have said, and will say, the detail I am setting out, is broadly to help understand the basis on which Police and AGC proceeded.

     

  112. In this case, did they have good reason to proceed? What did they know before the trial? And we are looking at that to see whether, systematically or systemically, anything was wrong.

     

    (3) SUDDEN TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT

     

  113. The third point that the High Court made relates to the termination of Ms Liyani’s employment.

     

  114. The High Court said the termination of Ms Liyani’s employment was sudden,[29] since there was no evidence of items that had gone missing in the period around 28 October 2016,[30] which necessitated the “immediate and sudden termination” of Ms Liyani’s employment when LML was overseas.

     

  115. Thus, the High Court said this sudden termination was less likely to be because of items that went missing “over the years”, and more likely to be due to fear of Ms Liyani’s complaint to MOM.[31]

     

  116. I have set out in Annex 5 the way this point came up and how this point had been dealt with in evidence at the trial, and what the subsequent investigations show.

     

  117. The investigations show that the decision to terminate Ms Liyani’s employment was not sudden. It was being considered from late 2015. The Liews decided upon a replacement helper in September 2016 for the reasons set out earlier. Ms Liyani’s employment was terminated on 28 October 2016 because the replacement helper became available then. The Police didn’t go into this earlier. There was no reason for the Police to believe that the termination was for reasons other than the alleged theft.

     

  118. I will now deal with a couple more points, on the motive issue.

     

    (4) DIFFERENT TERMINOLOGIES ON MOTIVE

     

  119. The High Court used various different terminologies to describe the Liews’ motive – it said “reason to believe”; “reasonable doubt”; “an improper motive”; “the improper motive”; it referred to “the existence of an improper motive”.

     

  120. It is not clear. Was there only reasonable doubt that the Liews had an improper motive? Or is the Court saying the Liews actually, in fact had an improper motive? It cannot be both. Lawyers will know that.

     

  121. I think it will be a fair assumption that the High Court intended to say that there was a reasonable doubt and not that in fact, that it found that there was an improper motive.

     

  122. It means that the High Court says there is a reasonable doubt as to whether the Liews had an improper motive and not that they in fact had an improper motive.

     

  123. The High Court also rejected the allegation that the whole of the Liew family were acting in collusion, based on the improper motive.[32]

     

    (5) EFFECTS ON VIEWS ON CREDIBILITY

     

  124. This view on motive appears to have considerably influenced the High Court in assessing the witnesses’ credibility as well. The High Court said this at various points in the Judgment.

     

  125. So, that is the first reason why Ms Liyani was acquitted.

     

    (B) BREAK IN CHAIN OF CUSTODY

     

  126. I will now come to the second major reason for the High Court acquitting Ms Liyani.

     

  127. The High Court said that there was a Break in Chain of Custody of the items alleged to have been stolen by Ms Liyani.

     

  128. The items which were recovered from the boxes, are set out in Annex 1, Table B. The items which were recovered from Ms Liyani, upon her arrest, are set out in Annex 1, Table A.

     

  129. The Break in the Chain of Custody applies to the items recovered from the boxes, and not the items seized from Ms Liyani.

     

    [A] ITEMS IN THE BOXES

     

  130. Let me refer to the items said to be in the boxes. I had set out the facts earlier.

     

  131. The High Court found that there had been a Break in the Chain of Custody of the items in the boxes, from 29 October 2016, when they were found in the boxes by the Liews, to 3 December 2016, when the Police visited the scene. The Liews were also using the items in the boxes, during this time period.

     

  132. The High Court therefore said that the case of theft is not proven because it can’t be proven that Ms Liyani took them. There could have been interference when the boxes were with the Liews.

     

  133. These items can be classified into two categories. One, items which Ms Liyani admitted to packing in the boxes, or otherwise admitted to taking. Two, items which she did not specifically admit to packing into her boxes.

     

  134. Where Ms Liyani admitted to packing the items, or taking the items, then it doesn’t matter whether there was a Chain of Custody, or whether the Chain of Custody was broken because she clearly intended to take these items.

     

  135. Where she admits to packing the items or taking the items, then the only question is whether it belongs to the Liews, or to Ms Liyani, or if for some reason she is entitled to keep the items.

     

  136. We have identified the items which Ms Liyani does not admit to packing into her boxes, namely the two DVD players, some of the clothing said to belong to Karl, and three bedsheets and one blanket said to belong to Karl.

     

  137. Looking at the facts, the High Court’s view that there was a Break in the Chain of Custody is understandable in respect of these items.

     

    [B] ITEMS FOUND ON MS LIYANI

     

  138. The 4th charge relates to items in Heather’s possession and comprised solely of items seized from Ms Liyani including a “Prada” bag and a pair of “Gucci” sunglasses with red stains when she came back from Jakarta.

     

  139. The Break in Chain of Custody does not apply to these items. I have gone through the Break in Chain of Custody in some detail because it is the second major reason the judge gave, and more importantly, because it relates directly to what the Police did, or did not do.

     

  140. For Members’ understanding it is useful to know which items are affected by the Break in the Chain, which items are not so affected, and that several items are not affected by the Break in the Chain.

     

  141. This is because there has been a misunderstanding amongst some, that all the items are affected by the Break in the Chain of Custody.

     

  142. We have set out at Annex 6 how the issue of chain of custody affected the various items in the charges. If we remove those items possibly affected by the Break in Chain of Custody, there would still be 4 theft charges against Ms Liyani.

     

  143. As regards the items that were affected by the Break in the Chain, there is no question, the Police should have acted faster. Police admit that there was a lapse in this area of investigation, and I will come back to this later.

     

    (C) CREDIBILITY

     

    (1) THE LIEWS’ CREDIBILITY

     

  144. Third, the Liews’ credibility. The High Court spoke about this. The High Court had doubts about the Liews’ credibility. In particular, it highlighted Karl’s evidence. It noted the following points about Karl’s evidence.

     

  145. One, Karl did not clearly identify some pieces of clothing in the 2nd Charge, such as a black dress, as having been in his possession.

     

  146. Karl also had difficulties with some other items of clothing like a cream Polo T Shirt, and a red blouse. High Court found Karl’s claim that he wore women’s T-Shirts suspect. I am using the High Court’s words.

     

  147. Karl testified that a Gucci wallet and a Braun Buffel wallet belonged to him, and were gifts from his family. However, none of his family members could recall gifting him those specific item. The High Court disbelieved his evidence, and thought he was being untruthful.

     

  148. The High Court disbelieved that a Helix watch was a gift from LML – that was Karl’s evidence. LML has denied having owned such an item.

     

  149. Karl agreed that a pink knife that he had earlier said he had purchased before 2002, was likely manufactured after that date. The High Court said this affected Karl’s credibility and his claim to ownership.

     

  150. The High Court disbelieved Karl’s evidence that he had bought a Habitat bedsheet in the UK. The High Court said he had “fabricated his testimony”. The bedsheet had the same pattern as a quilt cover which had an “IKEA” label. Karl’s wife, Heather, also testified that she had never seen the bedsheet in her room or on her bed.

     

  151. A Gerald Genta Watch – Karl said initially the value was $25,000. Defence expert put the then current value at $500, given its state – a chronograph pusher was missing, date malfunctioned, and the strap needed replacing.

     

  152. There are two issues here – whether Karl’s evidence can be relied upon to convict Ms Liyani; and two, whether Karl was being dishonest.

     

  153. The High Court chose to give little weight to what he said and said he was unreliable.

     

  154. Given that Ms Liyani’s liberty was at stake, I think many lawyers will understand, that the whole of Karl’s evidence was disregarded, as the High Court did.

     

  155. The second point – was Karl being dishonest? The High Court thought so.

     

    (2) AGC’S POSITION, HEREAFTER, ON COMMENCING CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS, BASED ON JUDGMENTS, DECISIONS ARISING FROM LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

  156. Arising from this case, AGC has decided that hereafter, if any judgment or decision issued in the course of any legal proceedings contains findings that there may have been perjury, or other serious offences, then AGC will seriously consider whether there should be further investigations, proceedings, in respect of those indicated offences.

     

  157. Karl has been investigated as to whether he committed any criminal offences, including perjury.

     

  158. Statements have been taken from Karl on the following points – whether the items highlighted by the High Court had been in his possession; his explanations for his inconsistencies at trial regarding these items. The investigations have been completed. A statement will be announced later this evening, based on the investigations.

     

    (3) SOME VIEWS ON THE LIEWS AND MS LIYANI

  159. Before I move on from the issue of credibility, let me say a few words about both Ms Liyani and the Liews.

     

  160. As I have said before, I am making these points to provide better context to deal with the questions, that we are discussing, and to better understand the basis on which the Police and AGC proceeded.

     

  161. I want to be brief because there are ongoing investigations and proceedings.

     

  162. For the benefit of the Members, we have prepared a table which sets out the different items; the evidence, including the inconsistencies in evidence of both Ms Liyani and the Liews, and their explanations; the State Courts’ views; and the High Court’s views. This is set out at Annex 7.

     

  163. Broadly speaking, Ms Liyani gave a number of reasons for her inconsistent answers. One, she didn’t understand the questions posed. Two, the interviewers didn’t understand her answers, or didn’t record her answers accurately. For example, when she admitted to taking the 10 to 15 items of male clothing. Three, she meant to say something different from what was recorded in her statement. Four, she was shown unclear or “blurry” photos of some items, so she might have given the wrong answers because she couldn’t recognise the items properly. Five, there was a black bag in her room, which contained items left behind by the Liews’ previous helper, which the previous helper did not want, and the items from that bag may have been packed into the boxes inadvertently by those who were helping Ms Liyani to pack.

  164. As for the Liews, Karl gave inconsistent answers in some areas, and in some instances, the testimony of one of the Liews was either contradicted, or at variance with the evidence of another family member. There was some debate on the value of some items. An expert witness said that the Helix watch was of “no value”;[33] and the Vacheron Constantin and the Swatch watches were counterfeit[34] and had no value. This testimony was not directly contradicted.

     

  165. The Defence also put in some articles on Dumpster Diving, suggesting expensive items like branded bags do get disposed of in the trash in Singapore, and thus Ms Liyani could have picked them up from trash cans. The argument is that Ms Liyani could have found, for example, the Prada bag and the jewellery which May says were hers, in the trash.

     

  166. There are various aspects of Ms Liyani’s evidence which prima facie raise skepticism. There were inconsistencies in many of her answers. Answers changed from one statement to another, and from her statements to her evidence in Court. Several aspects of her evidence in Court also raised questions. Items which were said to be found in the trash, for example. I will leave members to reach their own views.

     

  167. The Police and AGC thought she was untruthful, based on the Police investigations. They assessed that she did steal, that is why she was charged.

     

  168. I am giving you this summary to let you know how the Police and AGC assessed the matter. Of course, when they did so, they did not have the benefit of her evidence in court.

     

  169. The State Courts found her to be quite untruthful. The High Court gave her the benefit of doubt because it was troubled by Karl’s improbable, unreliable statements; some other inconsistencies in the Liews’ testimonies; and their conduct; and for other reasons, relating to the reliability of Ms Liyani’s statements. If there were issues with the statement-taking, then that affects the question of whether there were in fact inconsistencies in her statements.

     

  170. Moving to the Liews, there are many aspects of Karl’s conduct and evidence, some of which I have dealt with, which are highly unsatisfactory, which raise skepticism based on what he said at the trial. He appeared not to be a credible witness. Filing a Police report, making claims on items, needs to be taken seriously. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive account, but it must be done with careful consideration. Looking at the evidence, the impression one gets is that there seems to have been a cavalier attitude on the part of the Liews, in the way some items were identified as belonging to them, and in the way values were ascribed to some items.

     

  171. It is natural to expect that you will know and take your duties seriously when you file a Police report. Be careful in what you say and do, commensurate with your knowledge and experience. When you claim an item, you make sure it is yours. When you ascribe a value, make sure you have a basis.

     

  172. Questions do arise about how one or more of the Liews have conducted themselves, on these and other aspects.

     

  173. I don’t want to say more. There is more I would have liked to have said. I haven’t made comments about honesty. I have been somewhat restrained because of the investigations ,and I have referred to a statement that will be issued tonight as a result of the investigations.

     

  174. In this context again, the key issue for us is to go back to the Police and AGC. They had the statements from the Prosecution Witnesses. There was a prima facie case. They did not know that Karl or others would be inconsistent. The inconsistent evidence from Karl and other witnesses came at trial. That is not an unusual occurrence. It happens quite – I wouldn’t say quite frequently, but not infrequently. It depends on the cross-examiner, it depends on how much they have thought about it and other reasons. But it happens often enough. In civil cases, as well criminal cases, so there is nothing unusual about that either.

     

    (D) THE LANGUAGE IN WHICH MS LIYANI’S STATEMENTS WERE TAKEN

     

  175. I will now deal with the fourth reason given by the High Court in acquitting Ms Liyani. A total of five Police statements were recorded from Ms Liyani. She gave the first four statements in Malay. She gave the fifth statement with the aid of a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter.

     

  176. Section 22(4) of the CPC requires a written statement to be read over to the person who gives it. This is usually done in English. Where the person does not understand English, it must be read over in a language that he or she understands.

     

  177. The High Court found that there had been a breach of Section 22(4) of the CPC, because Ms Liyani had not been given a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter for her first four statements. The High Court also said that this was not a “flagrant violation"[35], so the statements remained admissible in court. They remained as evidence, though the Court will decide what weight to give to it.

     

  178. In this case, the Police officers believed in good faith that Ms Liyani understood Malay. She had worked in Singapore for over 20 years[36]. The recorder asked Ms Liyani in Malay whether she wished to give her statement in Malay or in Bahasa Indonesia. She chose to speak in Malay. There is no significant difference between Malay and Bahasa Indonesia in the asking of that question. She did not ask for an interpreter during the recording of her statements. Recorder testified in Court that he was able to communicate with her without any difficulties.

     

  179. The High Court recognised that she understood some Malay, though the extent of her understanding was unclear to the Court.[37] The High Court said that the differences in the two languages could create reasonable doubt on the accuracy of the statements recorded.[38]

     

  180. As I said earlier, the Police believed in good faith that Ms Liyani understood Malay. Police accept that there are differences between Bahasa Indonesia and our Malay, and in specific words, some words, could mean different things in the context of this case. And that can make a difference if Ms Liyani didn’t know the different meanings.

     

  181. Section 22(4)(b) of the CPC makes clear the key requirement is that the interviewee understands what is being said.

     

  182. A Bahasa Indonesia interpreter was provided in recording her final statement and when the charges were served on her. The final statement dealt with the majority of the areas covered in previous statements recorded from Ms Liyani and the items in the charges that were tendered. So, on that basis, her final statement is not affected by any interpretation issue.

     

  183. At trial, Ms Liyani said that she may not have understood some aspects of the final statement because it was read back in a mixture of Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, and the interpreter was “talking too fast”.[39] The High Court dismissed this claim. The statement reflected that it had been read back in Bahasa Indonesia, and Ms Liyani had affirmed that to be correct and true.[40]

    (VII) Views on Police, AGC and State Courts

     

  184. I will now, Sir, deal with specific issues that have been pointed out by the High Court in respect of the Police investigations, AGC, and the State Courts’ Judgment.

     

    (A) POLICE INVESTIGATIONS

     

  185. I have earlier set out the facts that the Police had, after the investigations. It disclosed a prima facie case of theft. Police act in public interest.

     

  186. There are about 250,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore, employed by more than 200,000 families. When there is a complaint of theft, the Police need to be fair to both the employer and the foreign domestic worker. This means Police will have to investigate properly when there is a prima facie case and let AGC decide whether to prosecute.

     

  187. If as a rule, Police take no action, and if it is known that Police won’t take action, Members can work out what the consequences will be, for themselves. As in, you can think and work out what the consequences of such an approach would be.

     

  188. We have to approach this with the perspective both of the 250,000 foreign domestic workers, to be fair to them, but also to the 200,000 odd families who employ them. If they believe that their employees have stolen or done something wrong, what are they supposed to do? It could be any one of these families. So, we have to be very careful in how we deal with this.

     

  189. Police investigated about 66,200 criminal cases in 2016. I am referring to 2016, for illustrative purposes. These were handled by about 1,100 IOs. Of these 66,200 cases, 14,122 were for theft-related offences in 2016. They resulted in 6,128 arrests in 2016.

     

  190. If we drill down to theft as a servant under Section 381 of the Penal Code, there were 500 arrests in 2016, of whom 246 were foreign domestic workers. So, theft as servant cases involving foreign domestic workers were roughly one in every one and a half days, or two cases every three days.

     

  191. Of those 246 arrests of foreign domestic workers for theft, 58 were prosecuted, or about 24 per cent. So, three in four were not prosecuted, and one in four were prosecuted. Who gets prosecuted is based on investigations and assessment by the Police and AGC. When there is some case, but it is not clear sometimes, warnings are given.

     

  192. I have explained earlier the reasons for the prosecution in this case. This case was handled by the Police like they handle any routine theft case. It was handled by the IO and cleared by his immediate supervisor. I say IO – when he was out, one of the other IOs did handle it as well. But at the level of IO, cleared by his immediate supervisor. This was a routine matter, and was cleared via normal channels. The matter was not considered, or brought to attention of anyone senior, at any time. Except that many of us came to know about it, when it was reported in the media. I will come back to this later.

     

  193. So, the question is: Was there a clear, prima facie case for Police to investigate? There was such a case. The Police had a duty to investigate. If any member feels that Police should not have investigated, I would be happy to hear and understand their perspective.

     

  194. The High Court commented on investigative processes, pointed out three aspects, which it felt were deficient – I will deal with all three.

     

    (1) POLICE DIDN’T GO AND TAKE CUSTODY OF EXHIBITS SOONER

     

  195. First, that there was a gap between the Police report being filed on 30 October 2016 and the Police looking at the items on 3 December 2016. The scene should have been visited by the Police close to the time of the Police report.

     

  196. This was a lapse, which affected some, but not all, of the items in the Charges.

     

  197. In terms of the acquittal, the High Court also acquitted Ms Liyani in respect of the items not affected by this Break in the Chain. So, the Break in itself, may not have affected the outcome, given the High Court’s reasoning.

  198. However, there can be no excuse for this lapse on the part of the Police officer. It is a breach of a legal requirement. It is also a breach of Police protocol. Both of which require the Police to respond to a crime scene promptly, or as soon as practicable.

     

  199. The broader objective of these requirements is to ensure the integrity of relevant evidence by securing it into Police custody or otherwise obtaining a proper record of it.

     

  200. Whether there has to be a seizure in any specific case must depend on the facts of the case, the nature of the exhibits, and evidence.

     

  201. However, even if there is no seizure, it is necessary to obtain a proper record of the evidence, such as by careful photography of the items. In this case, careful photography, soon after the Police report was filed, may have been good enough. But that was not done. I said there can be no excuse. I have nevertheless asked for an explanation as to why this has happened. I am told that the officer involved had a number of other ongoing cases, prosecutions, arrest operations, and a very personal matter that he had to deal with. He seems to have been under a lot of pressure. He was in a predicament. It is a situation that many Home Team officers find themselves in. It is a reality of what our officers go through.

     

  202. Nevertheless, internal investigations are being carried out in relation to the conduct of the officers involved in this case, and action will be taken as necessary.

     

  203. I must say, Sir, I have noticed in various parts of the Civil Service, quite a lot of our officers are under work pressure. I have mentioned it at other points in this House. It’s the general situation in some workplaces, many workplaces in Singapore with tight manpower issues, particularly in several areas of the Civil Service.

     

  204. I have asked for a review of the workload of Police Investigation Officers, though quite frankly, there is no easy solution because fundamentally, it is a manpower issue. Technology has helped, will help. But that has limits.

     

  205. The Police are also looking into online case management systems, to prompt officers on next steps in investigative workflows and ensure accountability, and minimise the risk of lapses in investigations.

     

    (2) PHOTOS

     

  206. Next I turn to photos. The second point that the High Court made about the Police, was the “poor quality” black-and-white photos, which were shown to Ms Liyani.

     

  207. Police agree that colour photos would have been more effective. Colour photos were shown to Ms Liyani in her final statement, when a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter was also provided.

     

  208. Police will take on board the High Court’s comments, which are fair.

     

  209. The Police’s review has shown that the layout of the photographs was also not satisfactory. Some photos featured multiple items in a single photo, with some overlapping ,and partially obscured.

     

    (3) INACCURACIES IN RECORDING STATEMENTS

  210. The third point the High Court made: The inaccuracies in recording the statements, the pace at which the questions were asked, and the time when one statement was taken, and the provision of a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter.

     

  211. I have dealt with the interpretation issue earlier. On this issue, I have said to Police officers, we need to make sure accused persons understand the statement recording process, what it involves and what is required of them. I have asked the Police to ask what language the person wishes to speak, but also – which they do – explain briefly what the process entails, the purpose of the statement, and that the accused may ask for an interpreter at any time, and that this should be recorded as part of the statement.

     

  212. The High Court also pointed out that there were inaccuracies in the way questions were phrased, and there were grammatical errors.[41]

     

  213. The Police have said to me that it is difficult to make sure there are no grammatical errors. But I think everybody agrees they need to try and make sure that grammatical errors, if any, should not affect the interpretation and understanding of the statement itself.

     

  214. The Police accept the point made about the time when statements are taken.Sometimes the timing is inevitable because of legal requirement to release the 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.

     

  215. As I have said, the Police will take the comments onboard.

     

    (B) AGC

     

  216. The High Court also made observations about AGC on how the functionality of the DVD player was demonstrated in Court.

     

  217. AGC has filed an affidavit explaining its position on record.

     

  218. The matter is now the subject of disciplinary proceedings and thus, I will refrain from commenting on this. I have been given a detailed note by AGC. I can set out the position, but I prefer not to. The disciplinary proceedings are by nature, disciplinary. There are possible penal sanctions. There will be full account of what the DPPs did, at the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT). The key question before us is whether there was any improper influence on them. Minister Indranee has discussed this with Mr Pritam Singh, Leader of the Opposition, who was also concerned that we should not go into this in Parliament. Let the DT handle it. The proceedings are penal in nature. I think lawyers will understand why we take this approach.

     

  219. AGC has also identified specific areas where it needs to improve. I will mention two areas.

     

  220. First, the valuation of items that are the subject of property offences. In this case, the valuation of the items in the charges were derived from the Liew’s family’s estimates. This has been the general practice, to rely on the complainant’s assessment of the value. There are currently no formal guidelines for Prosecutors on the issue of Valuation. Prosecutors are expected to use their judgment and discretion. AGC is developing guidelines on this issue. Independent assessment of the value of items may have helped in respect of some of the items in this case.

     

  221. Second, AGC is also looking at how it prepares for trials, and it will seek to learn from this and other cases.

     

  222. There is a further, but general and important point: Prosecution’s overarching role is to ensure that Justice is done, and not to win the case at all costs. The point is not being made by reference to this case. It is a general point. AGC has consistently emphasised this point to all its officers and will continue to do so. The Attorney-General himself has also publicly stressed his chamber’s commitment to the principle of even-handed justice, in his speeches at the Opening of the Legal Year, and elsewhere.

     

    (3) HIGH COURT’S VIEWS ON THE STATE COURTS JUDGMENT

     

  223. Now, I will move to the High Court’s views on the State Courts Judgement.

     

  224. First, some background on cases dealt with by the State Courts.

     

  225. The State Courts deal with most of the criminal cases in Singapore. The appeals go to the High Court.

     

  226. About 10 per cent of these appeals succeed, for instance, in setting aside the convictions, or in reducing the sentence. Ms Liyani’s case falls in that 10 per cent.

     

  227. This 10 per cent of cases, there can be different views on evidence, on law, the exigencies of trial process – for example, witnesses say different things, or something new turns up.

     

  228. The High Court disagreed with the Trial Judge’s assessment of the evidence, and made observations.

     

  229. With that as background, I will say, the views expressed by the High Court fall within the range of cases where an Appellate Court disagrees with a Lower Court.

     

  230. In some of these cases, the Appellate Court does take a different interpretation of the evidence, draws different inferences, comes to different conclusions. That is the function of the Appellate Court, when it takes the view that the Lower Court has made an error.

     

  231. In 2018 and 2019, there were 16 appeals by the accused against conviction, when the Appellate Court disagreed with the Lower Court, and reversed the decision. Nine were appeals from the State Courts to the High Court, and seven were appeals from the High Court to the Court of Appeal. So, even between the High Court and the Court of Appeal, there are differences in view.

     

  232. For example, one of the cases, Mohamed Affandi bin Rosli v PP & anor [2019] 1 SLR 440, chain of custody issues also arose.

     

  233. In another case, PP v GCK [2020] SCGA 2, the State Courts convicted the accused for outrage of modesty. He was sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment, three strokes of the cane. The High Court reversed the conviction, and acquitted the accused on the basis that there was insufficient evidence. On a criminal reference, the Court of Appeal reinstated the conviction, but substituted the original sentence with a sentence of 16 months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane.     

     

  234. So, our State Courts, one view. High Court, different view. Court of Appeal, a different view again.

     

  235. Question for us, as I have said more than once, is not which Court was right or wrong. The key question is: Was case conducted fairly in both Courts?

     

  236. The State Courts heard evidence from 12 Prosecution witnesses, four Defence witnesses including Ms Liyani, over 20 days. It had the opportunity to observe the witnesses, consider their evidence, Ms Liyani’s submissions, and it made its findings.

     

  237. The High Court considered the lower Court’s findings and Ms Liyani’s further submissions over three days, and came to a different view.

     

  238. This became a long and somewhat complex, complicated case. The Record of Proceedings runs to almost 3,700 pages.

     

  239. I have brought this House through some of the issues in detail, as I said earlier, to give Members a slightly better appreciation of the evidence.

     

  240. The matter was thoroughly ventilated and considered by both the State Courts and the High Court.

     

  241. It was one of those 10 per cent of cases where the Appeal Court disagreed with the Lower Court.

    (VIII) CONCLUSION ON PART I

  242. I have, Sir, covered the points specific to the case. Let me now set out what happened, in summary.

     

  243. One, there was clear evidence for the Police to investigate and for the AGC to prosecute this case.

     

  244. The Police and AGC dealt with this case like they deal with other theft cases.

     

  245. There are questions about some aspects of one or more of the Liews’ evidence and conduct. The claim of ownership of some items and the valuation by them, that appears to have been quite cavalier, to say the least.

     

  246. Questions also arise about Ms Liyani’s conduct and evidence.

     

  247. The High Court gave Ms Liyani the benefit of doubt because it was troubled by one or more of the Liews’ evidence and conduct, and because there were questions relating to her statements.

     

  248. There are aspects of trial preparation where Police and AGC can improve.

     

  249. Finally, the key point. There was nothing improper nor any undue pressure on the Police or AGC, at any stage of these investigations and proceedings; and no evidence of any personal connection between the Liews and any Police officer, DPP, Judge involved in this case.

     

  250. I have gone through all of this because we have to show that the Police and the AGC did not act arbitrarily, or as a result of the influence of a rich and influential family. Those were the accusations which circulated immediately after the learned Justice Chan issued his judgement, that there was a grave miscarriage of justice, and AGC and the Police were asked to apologise.

     

  251. What I put forward to this House show that the Police and AGC had good grounds to charge Ms Liyani. They certainly did not act at the behest of the Liew family, and this is how our system is supposed to work.

     

  252. The Police and AGC made their assessments based on the evidence. The State Courts agreed with the Prosecution and convicted Ms Liyani. The High Court disagreed and overturned the conviction, felt there were reasonable grounds to doubt the motives of the Liew family in making the Police report. Again, this shows how our system works.

     

  253. The rest, Sir, I will deal with in Part 2. What I’ve said is the fundamental question relating to our systems, and I wonder Sir, if this is an appropriate time to take a break.



Annexes
Annex 1 (138kb, .pdf)
Annex 2 (164 kb, .pdf)
Annex 3 (343 kb, .pdf)
Annex 4 (303 kb, .pdf)
Annex 5 (367 kb, .pdf)
Annex 6 (184 kb, .pdf)
Annex 7 (344 kb, .pdf)
Annex 8 (68 kb, .pdf)

[1] Public Prosecutor v Parti Liyani [2019] SGDC 57 (“State Courts GD”)

[2] Parti Liyani v Public Prosecutor [2020] SGHC 187 (“GD”)

[3] ROP at page 1683 lines 1-3 (Ms Liyani’s evidence).

[4] P33 at A104, ROP at page 2976.

[5] GD at [5].

[6] ROP at page 1190 at lines 25-27 (LML’s evidence); also P11 at ROP page 2864.

[7] ROP at page 1192 at lines 3-5 (LML’s evidence).

[8] P11 at ROP page 2864.

[9] ROP at page 1191 lines 8-21 (LML’s evidence).

[10] ROP page 1282 lines 17-20 (LML’s evidence).

[11] ROP page 1189 line 28 to page 1190 line 2 (LML’s evidence).

[12] ROP at page 294 lines 7-10 (Karl’s evidence).

[13] ROP at page 881 lines 14-25 (Heather’s evidence).

[14] ROP at page 215 line 29 to page 216 line 9 (Karl’s evidence).

[15] ROP at page 1331 lines 23-25 (LML’s evidence).

[16] P32 at A53, ROP at page 2969

[17] ROP at page 1873 line 25 to page 1874 line 3 (Ms Liyani’s evidence).

[18] ROP at pages 2864-2865

[19] Statement of Parti dated 4 Dec 2016, A27.

[20] Statement of Parti dated 4 Dec 2016, A34.

[21] Statement of Parti dated 4 Dec 2016, A35.

[22] State Courts GD at [21]

[23] State Courts GD at [21]

[24] State Courts GD at [54]

[25] State Courts GD at [59]

[26] GD at [37]

[27] GD at [50]

[28] GD at [48]

[29] GD at [48]

[30] GD at [49]

[31] GD at [49]

[32] GD at [45]

[33] ROP at page 2579 line 17 (Eric Lester Ong’s evidence)

[34] ROP at page 2580 lines 3-7; ROP at page 2581 lines 22-30 (Eric Lester Ong’s evidence).

[35] GD at [75]

[36] See D9 – MOM’s employment history for Ms Liyani shows that she commenced working in Singapore on 2 August 1996, and has worked for a total of 7 employers (including LML).

[37] GD at [75]

[38] GD at [71]

[39] GD at [77]

[40] HC Judgment at [77].

[41] GD at [86] – “With the likelihood of inaccuracies in the recording of P33 itself, I find that it is unsafe to convict [Ms Liyani] primarily based on her “admission” based on Q18/A18 of P33.”

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