Parliament: Shanmugam admits police lapse in Parti Liyani probe, says disciplinary action being taken

Former domestic helper Parti Liyani, seen here with her lawyer Anil Balchandani leaving the State Courts on Sept 8, 2020.
Former domestic helper Parti Liyani, seen here with her lawyer Anil Balchandani leaving the State Courts on Sept 8, 2020.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The five-week gap between the filing of the police report by Mr Liew Mun Leong and his son, and the police officers visiting the scene was a breach of a legal requirement as well as a breach of police protocol.

Disciplinary action is being taken against the officer concerned, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in his replies to MPs after he delivered a ministerial statement on the Parti Liyani case.

The delay in the police visiting the crime scene was one of the reasons for the High Court's decision in September to acquit Ms Parti of stealing from her employers.

In his judgment, Justice Chan Seng Onn found that there was a break in the chain of custody of the items that were said to be stolen.

Ms Parti had packed items into three boxes after she was fired on Oct 28, 2016.

She returned to Indonesia that night after Mr Karl Liew agreed to send the boxes to her.

The next day, the boxes were opened by the Liews, who found items which they said belonged to them.

Justice Chan said between Oct 29, when the boxes were opened, to Dec 3, when the police visited the scene, there had been a break in the chain of custody of evidence.

The judge said it could not proved that Ms Liyani took the items that were eventually documented by the police because there could have been interference while the boxes were with the Liews.

On Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam said that the police should have visited the scene close to the time that the police report was made on Oct 30, 2016.

The police are legally required to respond to a crime scene promptly or as soon as practicable, he said.

In this case, the police went to the Liews' home only on Dec 3, 2016.

Mr Shanmugam said: ""There can be no excuse for this lapse on the part of the police officer."

He added that internal investigations are being carried out in relation to the conduct of the offiers involved in the case, and action will be taken as necessary.

Mr Shanmugam said he had asked for an explanation for the lapses and was told that the investigation officer was busy with a number of ongoing prosecutions, arrest operations, and personal matters.

The officer seemed to have been under a lot of work pressure and was in a predicament, he said.

Mr Shanmugam said he has asked for a review of the workload of police investigating officers, but acknowledged that there was no easy solution as it was a manpower issue.

He added that it is not always necessary for police to seize items when investigating cases.

However, even if the items are not seized, the police have to obtain a proper record of the evidence, such as by taking photographs 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," he said.