CJ gives green light to probe two DPPs over misconduct in Parti Liyani's trial

Former domestic helper Parti Liyani filed a complaint in June - before her acquittal - against the two DPPs handling her theft trial.
Former domestic helper Parti Liyani filed a complaint in June - before her acquittal - against the two DPPs handling her theft trial.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The Chief Justice has given the go-ahead for investigations into two deputy public prosecutors to commence, following a misconduct complaint by former domestic helper Parti Liyani.

DPP Tan Yanying and DPP Tan Wee Hao handled Ms Parti's theft trial, where she was accused of stealing $34,000 worth of items from her former employer Liew Mun Leong, who is the former chairman of Changi Airport Group.

The charge alleged that the 46-year-old Indonesian had stolen, among other things, a Pioneer DVD player.

Ms Parti, who worked for the Liews for nine years, claimed trial in April 2018. In March last year, she was jailed for 26 months.

On her appeal to the High Court, the DVD player was found to be faulty, and she was acquitted of all charges on Sept 4 this year.

In June, before her acquittal, Ms Parti filed a complaint against the DPPs.

During the trial, the DPPs showed Ms Parti that the device could play a video digitally stored in the hard disk. But during the appeal, it was shown that the device could not play DVDs.

In his judgment released yesterday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wrote: "I am satisfied that there is a prima facie case that the DPPs' conduct might suggest a lack of candour and that this may have resulted in the applicant being cross-examined unfairly, and in the applicant and the court being misled."

Ms Parti contended that the DPPs had concealed material facts and therefore created the false impression that the device was fully functional. She argued that were it not for this false impression, she would not have agreed, under cross-examination, that the device was operational and that this contradicted her defence that she was allowed to take the player as it was broken.

Because of this, the DPPs suggested she had lied about the circumstances in which the device came to be in her possession.

The Chief Justice found that the DPPs had reason to think there were issues with the DVD player's functionality; that they did not make this known to the trial judge, Ms Parti or her lawyer Anil Balchandani; and that the DPPs had gone further to suggest that there were no problems with the functionality of the device.

He noted that the DPPs appeared to have had trouble playing a DVD on the player on Sept 26, 2018, when they were testing it on their own before the trial. They later conceded this at the hearing of the appeal.

And during the DPPs' demonstration of the DVD player that day, neither of them informed the judge that the player had two modes or that they had difficulties playing a DVD earlier in the morning. Ms Parti stated that at that point, she did not know the DVD player had two modes.

Furthermore, during his re-examination of Ms Parti on Dec 4 that year, Mr Balchandani tried to play two different DVDs, which prompted various error messages.

The Chief Justice also found that it seemed arguable that the DPPs had gone further to suggest that there were no problems with the functionality of the device.

During Mr Balchandani's re-examination of Ms Parti, DPP Tan Yanying asserted that the DPPs' earlier demonstration proved that the device was working, and objected to the lawyer trying to conduct another demonstration. She said there was "no confusion" as to whether it worked since Ms Parti had "testified explicitly and expressly" that it did.

The DPPs also said in their closing submissions that there were no issues at all with the device, and any apparent issues were probably due to the DVD Mr Balchandani used, rather than with the player itself.

On granting leave to investigate the DPPs, the Chief Justice emphasised that he had not regarded any defences the DPPs may raise and had not considered any specific explanation the DPPs may have that may explain their conduct and even exculpate them.

Lawyers Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi are representing Ms Parti for the disciplinary proceedings. The Chief Justice had earlier noted that Ms Parti would likely have to appoint another lawyer if Mr Balchandani is to be a witness in the proceedings.

The high-profile case has sparked a public outcry, with questions raised about the evidence-gathering process and the way in which the trial was conducted.

Reviews by the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers are expected to conclude this month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'CJ gives green light to probe two DPPs over misconduct in Parti Liyani's trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe