Shanmugam admits lapses by officers who investigated Indonesian maid Parti Liyani

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam speaks in Parliament on Nov. 4, 2020. Photo: CNA/YouTube
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam speaks in Parliament on Nov. 4, 2020. Photo: CNA/YouTube

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam today admitted there were lapses committed by police officers when investigating Indonesian maid Parti Liyani for theft. 

Police should have gone to the crime scene sooner to either seize items or take photos of them, Shanmugam said in Parliament. He also said that the photos eventually taken of those items were of poor quality, before going on to say that the police officer involved in the investigation was experiencing a heavy workload. 

“The scene should have been visited by the police close to the time of the police report,” Shanmugam said during his speech in Parliament earlier today. “This was a lapse which affected some but not all of the items in the charges.”

“I said there can be no excuse. I have nevertheless asked for an explanation as to why this has happened. I am told that the officer involved had a number of other ongoing cases, prosecutions, arrest operations, and a very personal matter that he had to deal with,” the minister added.  “He seems to have been under a lot of pressure. He was in a predicament. It was a situation that many Home Team officers find themselves in.”

Shanmugam spoke in Parliament hours after Liyani released her first public statement since the high court overturned her theft conviction in September. Liyani said this morning that she had complained in July about alleged police misconduct, including not allowing her to see the items she was accused of stealing, the delay in securing evidence, and not providing a Bahasa Indonesia translator when giving police statements. 

She also alleged that the evidence may have been tampered with and that “wrong instructions” from police may have led to a “misleading sketch that inaccurately depicted three boxes of allegedly stolen items at that material time.”

Shanmugam addressed some of these alleged misconducts in today’s speech, but not the possible tampering of evidence and police’s “wrong instructions.” 

He said that the police should have visited the crime scene sooner after the police report was lodged by Liyani’s former employer Liew Mun Leong in October 2016 instead of months later, and acknowledged that the black and white photos that were eventually taken of those items were of poor quality, with some showing the items overlapping or obscured. 

Regarding the lack of a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter, the minister said he has spoken to police officers to make sure that accused persons are clear of the statement recording process and to have the explanation recorded in the statement as well. 

Liyani in September had her theft conviction overturned after the high court found that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt. The court also pointed out improper motive from the Liew family, the lack of proper handling of evidence to preserve a chain of custody by the police, as well as inaccuracies and grammatical errors in statements. 

Liyani is also seeking damages from the prosecution instead of Liew. 

According to Shanmugam, police find it “difficult” to ensure statements did not have grammatical errors.

The Attorney General’s Chambers is currently conducting a disciplinary hearing into the prosecutors involved in Liyani’s case, Shanmugam said, and that they are developing guidelines on how to assess the value of stolen items independently instead of relying on information from accusers. 

Liew’s son Karl had overestimated the value of a watch as S$25,000 when it turned out to be only S$500. 

Correction: K Shanmugam said that the police officer involved in Parti Liyani’s investigations was experiencing a heavy workload but did not explicitly blame that for the lapses that took place. This article has been corrected to reflect this. 

Other stories:
Indonesian maid who took on boss says still waiting for review of police conduct
Law firm says it ‘only played a very small part’ in surprise acquittal of Changi Airport chief’s ex-maid

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