SINGAPORE - Former domestic worker Parti Liyani, an Indonesian who was acquitted in a high-profile case last year of stealing from her then employer, is making an unprecedented bid to seek compensation from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
She is the first person to be making an application for compensation under Section 359(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which was introduced in 2010, prosecutors told the High Court on Friday (April 16).
The provision states that if an accused is acquitted of any charge, and if the court is satisfied that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious, the court may order a compensation sum of up to $10,000.
Ms Parti was originally accused of stealing more than $50,000 worth of items from the family of prominent businessman Liew Mun Leong.
She was found guilty by a district court and sentenced to 26 months’ jail, but was acquitted by High Court judge Chan Seng Onn last September on appeal.
On Friday, appearing before Justice Chan on the issue of compensation, Ms Parti’s lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, raised numerous grounds to argue that the decision to prosecute her was frivolous or vexatious.
Mr Balchandani said the prosecution failed to verify that the last day of the maid’s employment was in fact Oct 27, 2016, and not Oct 28 as stated in court by Mr Liew and Ms Parti.
He contended that the prosecution should not have gone ahead with the charges as it was aware that the police had been slow in seizing the items from Mr Liew’s house.
He took issue with how prosecutors “nitpicked” by repeatedly questioning Ms Parti in court on whether a particular item cost $2.50 or $2.80.
He contended that the prosecution withheld evidence on the functionality of a DVD player.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir argued that Ms Parti’s application must be dismissed as her arguments fell “woefully short of showing that the decision to prosecute was frivolous or vexatious”.
He argued that there was more than sufficient justification for the decision to prosecute Ms Parti. This included the accounts from the Liews and Ms Parti’s own admission that she had taken some items without consent.
He said what Mr Balchandani did was to go through 3,699 pages of court transcripts and point out where things went wrong. This can be done with any acquittal, and even any conviction, said Mr Faizal.
“The reality of litigation is that it is flowing, you work with imperfect information, you never know how witnesses will respond on the stand,” said Mr Faizal.
Also debated in court was the legal test for what constitutes “frivolous or vexatious”, with Assistant Professor Benjamin Ong from the Singapore Management University law school appointed to give an independent view.
Mr Faizal argued that the threshold test for “frivolous or vexatious” was extremely high and that it was necessary to prove “dishonesty or malice” on the prosecution’s part.
Mr Balchandani said malice was not an essential element.
In court documents, Ms Parti quantified her losses at $73,100 - including $37,500 in foregone salary and $29,400 for lodging provided by non-governmental group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).
The group housed her at its shelter from December 2016 until she returned to Indonesia in January this year.
The case was adjourned for arguments to continue at a later date.