UPDATE: Parti Liyani issued a statement through HOME
SINGAPORE — Former domestic helper Parti Liyani's bid for compensation against the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) was dismissed by the High Court on Monday (21 June), with Justice Chan Seng Onn ruling that Parti had failed to prove on a balance of probability that her prosecution had been frivolous or vexatious.
Delivering his brief grounds of decision, Justice Chan noted that the assertion that the prosecution was vexatious or frivolous was a "serious and grave one" and had a "high threshold".
"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," Justice Chan said, noting that the burden of proof was on the applicant to prove the allegations.
Parti had taken out the application against the AGC under Section 359(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code - in the first application of its kind in court - after she had been acquitted of her charges at the High Court by Justice Chan, who presided over Parti's appeal. The maximum sum of compensation under the section is $10,000.
She had originally been convicted at the district court on four charges of stealing from former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong's household, and sentenced to 26 months' jail. Her conviction was overturned last September after Justice Chan found that the Liew family may have had an “improper motive” in filing a police report against her.
After her conviction was overturned, her lawyer Anil Balchandani told the High Court that the Indonesian had incurred a loss of around $71,000 in the four years she has stayed in Singapore for her court case.
'Not the right forum' to air grievances
Justice Chan noted that Parti's allegations that the prosecution had been frivolous or vexatious fell into three categories: an assertion against the conduct of Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Yan Ying and Tan Wee Hao at trial; an assertion against the sufficiency of evidence supporting the commencement and the continuation of the trial; and an assertion of malice and dishonesty.
Parti's assertion against the conduct of the DPP pertained to that of taking issue with, amongst others, the prosecution's alleged failure to objectively value the items, late disclosure of evidence and its objection to the defence introducing evidence, noted the judge.
Justice Chan said he was "not satisfied" that any of these, even if viewed in whole, showed that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious.
"The criminal litigation process is not perfect. As officers of the court, prosecutors and defence counsel are expected to act in good faith and do their best to assist the court," he said.
"However, it must be acknowledged that prosecutors and defence counsel are subject to the practical constraints of time and resources. Some aspects of preparation for trial or certain relevant evidence may be inadvertently overlooked."
He added, "This court is not the correct forum to air grievances about the DPPs’ 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'"
The court accepted that the evidence of the Liew family and the inculpatory parts of the statements given by Parti were sufficient to justify the commencement of proceedings, while none of the evidence introduced had undermined the prosecution to the extent it had to be discontinued, or undermined the basis of Parti's prosecution.
There was also no evidence to suggest the prosecution had any "deliberate or insidious motive" to make late disclosure of the photo or video evidence in order to impede the defence’s preparation for trial.
The mere fact that the DPP had objected to the defence's attempt to introduce evidence relating to her illegal deployment outside of the Liew's household did not show malice, said the judge.
A separately disciplinary tribunal against the two DPPs who conducted Parti's trial is still pending.
Parti issues statement
On Tuesday, Parti issued a statement through migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), saying that she was disappointed but accepted the High Court's decision with gratitude.
"I hold firmly to my hope that the Public Prosecutors will find wisdom and learn from my case, and that each Prosecutor shall always remember that their role is to achieve and enforce justice, not merely to convict," she said.
She thanked Balchandani, his team, and HOME, which she said had supported her in "this tortuous struggle over the past four years".
"I will never forget your support and services," she added.
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