Former domestic worker Parti Liyani seeks disciplinary action against Singapore prosecutors who handled her theft trial

Parti, 46, filed an originating summons under Section 82A of the Legal Profession Act. — TODAY pic
Parti, 46, filed an originating summons under Section 82A of the Legal Profession Act. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 23  — The former domestic worker of businessman Liew Mun Leong has taken legal action in a bid to begin disciplinary proceedings against two public prosecutors who handled her case.

Parti Liyani’s lawyer, Anil Balchandani from Red Lion Circle, attended a pre-trial conference in the High Court today.

The Indonesian worker’s case was thrust into the spotlight three weeks ago when a High Court judge overturned her conviction for stealing more than S$34,000 (RM103.193) worth of items from Mr Liew’s household.

Liew is the former chairman of Changi Airport Group. He has since quit and also resigned from various public and private sector roles.

Parti, 46, filed an originating summons under Section 82A of the Legal Profession Act, which governs disciplinary proceedings against legal service officers or non-practising solicitors.

An originating summons is one of the ways by which someone can take civil legal action against another party. The other method is to issue a writ of summons, but an originating summons is typically the option when the case is unlikely to contain any substantial dispute of facts.

The chief justice can appoint a disciplinary tribunal if he grants leave for investigations to be conducted into the misconduct complaint.

The tribunal will submit its findings to the chief justice, who can either dismiss the complaint if the tribunal finds no cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action, or order the legal service officers to be punished.

If due cause is shown that a legal service officer is guilty of misconduct, he could be disbarred, ordered to pay penalties of up to S$20,000, or given any other order that a disciplinary tribunal deems fit.

Based on court records, Ms Parti is seeking proceedings against Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Tan Wee Hao and Tan Yanying, who had handled her earlier trial at the State Courts.

They were represented on Wednesday by State Counsels Kristy Tan, Jeyendran Jeyapal and Jocelyn Teo from the civil division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Senior Assistant Registrar Cheng Pei Feng heard the case.

DPPs Tan Yanying, Marcus Foo and Goh Sue Jean appeared for the prosecution during the High Court appeal.

The case

Parti was first convicted and sentenced to 26 months’ jail in March last year, after a district judge found her guilty of four theft charges concerning items from Mr Liew and his family.

In acquitting her, Justice Chan Seng Onn stated that Liew and his son Karl had an “improper motive” in accusing her of theft back in 2016. She had threatened to file a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower for being forced to work at his son’s home and office.

Among Justice Chan’s findings, he noted that the prosecution should have fully disclosed its knowledge that a Pioneer DVD player, which Parti was accused of stealing, was not working properly.

It was valued at S$1,000 and said to have belonged to Mr Liew.

During the district court trial, Balchandani had accused both DPPs of practising a “sleight of hand” technique to demonstrate that the DVD player was working. This led to Parti conceding that it was working.

When Balchandani produced the player during the High Court appeal, the prosecution admitted that there were issues with its functionality.

Justice Chan said: “The fact that the said Pioneer DVD player was only partially functioning (that is, it was able to play videos from the hard disk component, but not able to play a DVD) was not disclosed or clarified by the prosecution during their cross-examination of Parti at the trial below. 

“I observe that this is particularly prejudicial to the accused since Parti was never given an opportunity to test the Pioneer DVD player until the day of the trial itself.”

In addition, it was revealed that a police investigating officer did not seize or take into custody items that became the subject of the charges until much later. 

It was also established that the police did not ensure that an Indonesian interpreter was present when recording her statements, which then came to be conducted in a mix of English and Malay.

The acquittal of Parti ignited a fierce public debate into how foreign domestic workers are treated by employers and the lack of support they receive when seeking justice.

Earlier this month, Law Minister K Shanmugam said that government agencies are looking into what “went wrong” in the chain of events that led to Parti being found guilty of stealing.

Shanmugam will deliver a ministerial statement when Parliament sits on the week of Oct 5, on the issues raised by Parti’s case and the way it was handled by the authorities.

This came after the Workers’ Party filed an adjournment motion to debate the issues in Parliament. — TODAY

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