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AGC forming guidelines on valuing items alleged to be stolen

AGC forming guidelines on valuing items alleged to be stolen

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 05 Nov 2020
Author: Cara Wong

AGC has identified 2 areas of improvements of which one is developing guidelines on how to properly value allegedly stolen items.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is developing guidelines on how to properly value allegedly stolen items, after it emerged during the Parti Liyani trial that the value of certain items was inflated by the complainants.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament this is one of two areas the AGC has identified that needs improvement, after reviewing its actions in the trial where the former maid was acquitted of all theft charges on Sept 4.

He also stressed that the prosecution's overarching role is to ensure that justice is done, and not to "win the case at all costs".

"This point is not being made by reference to this case. It is a general point," said Mr Shanmugam.

He noted that Attorney-General Lucien Wong has publicly stressed this on many occasions.

"AGC has consistently emphasised this point to all its officers, and will continue to do so."

Delivering a ministerial statement on the case of Ms Parti, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that independent assessment of the value of the items "may have helped" for some of the items in this case, as prosecutors had derived the value by relying on the Liew family's estimates.

This has been the general practice for the valuation of items and there are no formal guidelines, said Mr Shanmugam, adding that prosecutors are expected to use their "judgment and discretion".

During the trial, the court had found that the value of some of the items had been "overestimated", including a Gerald Genta watch that was originally priced at $25,000 by the prosecution.

Mr Karl Liew, the son of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, had claimed the watch was worth that much, based on his own "impression", even though the strap was broken and it had a missing button knob.

A witness called by the defence placed its current value at $500 instead, adding that the date function was faulty.

The worth of the watch was eventually reduced by the court to $10,000.

Mr Liew also told prosecutors that a Helix watch was worth $50, but a horologist who was called to the stand testified that the watch was a free gift from Shell.

All such relevant physical exhibits should have been shown to witnesses before they take the stand, said Mr Shanmugam. He further noted that the Liew family was mostly shown photographs of the exhibits during witness interviews.

On exhibits, the High Court judge also said that prosecutors should have fully disclosed the defect found in a $1,000 DVD player Ms Parti was accused of stealing during the trial. The prosecution conceded that it had some difficulties playing a DVD disc with the machine only in the appeal stage.

This element proved crucial in supporting Ms Parti's point that the DVD player was "spoilt" and the High Court judge found that it was likely that the Liews no longer wanted the player.

Mr Shanmugam said the matter is now the subject of disciplinary proceedings, where a full account of what the prosecutors did will be given, and hence he would refrain from commenting on it.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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