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Parti Liyani’s application for S$10,000 compensation against the AGC dismissed by High Court

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SINGAPORE: Ms Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last year of theft, had her application for compensation of S$10,000 against the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) dismissed by the High Court on Monday (Jun 21).

She sought compensation for losses after her conviction for theft was overturned upon appeal and she was acquitted in September last year. 

The Indonesian woman, a former domestic worker, was initially found guilty in March 2019 of stealing more than S$30,000 worth of valuables from former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family when she was working for them.

High Court judge Justice Chan Seng Onn overturned the conviction and acquitted her of all charges in September last year upon her appeal. 

After the acquittal, Ms Parti sought a compensation order in the High Court. Ms Parti applied to be compensated for the statutory maximum of S$10,000 under Section 359(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

READ: Maid acquitted of stealing S$34,000 worth of items from Changi Airport Group chairman’s home

READ: Parti Liyani seeks compensation order for theft trial, says she suffered losses of about S$71,000

On Monday, Justice Chan dismissed her compensation application, and said that she had not succeeded in proving, on a balance of probabilities, that the prosecution against her was “frivolous or vexatious”.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, if an accused person is acquitted of any charge for any offence, and if it is proven that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious, the court “may order the prosecution or the complainant or the person on whose information the prosecution was instituted to pay as compensation to the accused a sum not exceeding S$10,000”.

This is the first application for compensation against the prosecution under Section 359(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code that has come before the Singapore courts, said Justice Chan in his judgment. The section was enacted in 2010.

ASSERTIONS MADE FAILED TO MEET “HIGH THRESHOLD”

Justice Chan said that the assertions made by Ms Parti may be categorised into three groups: Assertions against the prosecutor’s conduct of the proceedings; assertions against the sufficiency of evidence supporting the commencement and continuation of her prosecution; and assertions of malice or dishonesty.

“On the merits, the court held that the assertions made failed to meet the high threshold for establishing that (Ms) Parti’s prosecution was frivolous or vexatious,” he said.

Justice Chan said the assertion that the prosecution against Ms Parti was “frivolous or vexatious” is a “serious and grave one”.

“Especially where malice, dishonesty or improper motives are alleged against the prosecution, the gravity of these allegations must be part of the whole range of circumstances that has to be weighed by the court when deciding as to the balance of probabilities,” he said.

The court held that the assertions did not show any dishonesty, malice or improper motive on the prosecution’s part to embarrass the defence, he said. 

Justice Chan added that the assertions were mainly related to Ms Parti’s “dissatisfaction with how the deputy public prosecutors conducted the proceedings”.

“However, this court is not the correct forum to air grievances about the deputy public prosecutors’ conduct. Mere dissatisfaction with different aspects of how the prosecutors had conducted the proceedings, even if they are numerous, will not, without more, render the prosecution ‘frivolous or vexatious’,” he said. 

“After considering the cumulative effect of all of Parti’s assertions, the court found that (Ms) Parti had not proven on a balance of probability that her prosecution was frivolous or vexatious,” Justice Chan added.

MISCONDUCT HEARING

In October last year, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon granted Ms Parti leave for an investigation to be conducted into her complaint of misconduct against two prosecutors in her theft trial.

Ms Parti alleged that Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Yanying and Tan Wee Hao showed a “lack of candour” in the way they cross-examined her and presented their position to the court.

As a result, she was cross-examined unfairly and both she and the court were possibly misled, claimed Ms Parti.

READ: Chief Justice grants investigation into Parti Liyani’s complaint of misconduct against prosecutors

The Chief Justice found that there was a prima facie case of misconduct on the evidence and that there were no relevant factors against the granting of leave.

A disciplinary tribunal will hear the case and investigate the complaint before submitting a report to the Chief Justice. 

If cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action is found, the Chief Justice may appoint an advocate and solicitor or a legal service officer to apply for an order to impose sanctions on the prosecutors.

These include censures, having them struck off the roll, prohibiting them from applying for a practising certificate for up to five years, ordering a penalty of up to S$20,000 or other punishments.

The case is pending.

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