The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has announced that no further action will be taken against controversial blogger Xiaxue (real name, Wendy Cheng), a police report made against her highly inflammatory comments on social media earlier this year. The reason cited by the SPF is that they have consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), which advised that the elements of an offence have not been established beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a phrase that is in the public spotlight these days namely because of the high profile Parti Liyani case. In this case, which saw Parti being acquitted by the High Court for alleged theft from the influential Liew Mun Leong and his family, Justice Chan Seng Onn had held that the prosecution had not proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Parti had stolen the items.
These two incidents clearly highlights the discretion that the AGC has when it comes to whether or not to press charges. So, why did the AGC allow the Parti case to go ahead in the first place?
Among other things, Justice Chan of the High Court had identified numerous mistakes of an arguably serious nature that led to there being a failure to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Parti was guilty of theft. Included in this list of mistakes would be the way evidence was handled (or mishandled). These are issues that the AGC would have known about and yet they pressed ahead.
While the factual matrix between Xiaxue’s case and Parti Liyani’s case are vastly different, a key element remains the same. Where a potential crime is concerned, the prosecution has to prove that the alleged perpetrator committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
In deciding whether or not to prosecute a case therefore, the AGC would have to consider that the accused could be proven to be guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a court of law. With the problems with the investigation and handling of Parti’s case now revealed, how is it that the AGC came to the conclusion that Parti could be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be guilty of the theft in a court of law?
While not opining or whether or not Xiaxue is guilty of a crime, the two incidents do demonstrate that two people may have been treated differently. Why it that the case?
For Parti’s case, did the fact that the accuser was the well connected Liew Mun Leong affect how Parti was treated? Did the fact that Parti was just a foreign domestic worker without fancy connections reduce her chances unwittingly?
Again, this brings us back to why it is of utmost importance that a Committee of Inquiry (COI) be convened. A closed doors investigation by individual ministries may not go far enough in addressing the numerous and troubling questions that the Parti Liyani case has raised.