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Anaesthetist acquitted of 4 charges of molesting woman, who admitted to lying in court

SINGAPORE — An anaesthetist who runs a private clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard was cleared on Monday (Aug 16) of four criminal charges of molesting a woman almost four years ago.

Dr Yeo Sow Nam pictured outside the State Courts in March 2021.

Dr Yeo Sow Nam pictured outside the State Courts in March 2021.

  • ​Dr Yeo Sow Nam, 52, was cleared for all four criminal charges against him
  • A woman had accused him of molesting her in Mount Elizabeth Hospital where he ran a pain management clinic
  • The prosecution applied for a discharge amounting to an acquittal
  • His lawyers said they intend to apply for the gag order on her identity to be lifted
  • In a public statement, Dr Yeo said he had to “endure the distress and ignominy of being publicly accused of sex crimes I did not commit”

 

SINGAPORE — An anaesthetist who runs a private clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Orchard Road was cleared on Monday (Aug 16) of four criminal charges of molesting a woman almost four years ago.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong granted the prosecution’s application for a discharge amounting to an acquittal for Dr Yeo Sow Nam, now aged 52, midway through his trial. The defence had yet to begin its case.

The complainant, 33, had admitted to lying on the witness stand about material aspects of the allegations she had filed against Dr Yeo.

She had accused him of inappropriately touching her four times in the hospital on the evening of Oct 9, 2017.

The allegations included him wrapping his hand around her shoulder, pulling her towards him and kissing the side of her head on two occasions; hugging her and “quickly gripping” her breasts over her arms from behind her; and squeezing her waist over her clothes with his hand.

The media and public were banned from attending the hearing when she testified, but Dr Yeo’s lawyers — Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Chooi Jing Yen and Mr Johannes Hadi — successfully applied for court transcripts to be released under the principle of open justice.

The prosecution objected to this but the court ruled in the defence’s favour.

Dr Yeo’s lawyers said that they had also intended to apply for the gag order on the complainant’s identity to be lifted. However, they acknowledged that the law prohibits anyone from naming her until or if she is charged with giving false evidence.

Mr Thuraisingam added that they reserve their rights to apply for the lifting of the gag order in the future.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong then ruled that the gag order will remain in force.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Muhamad Imaduddien and Andre Ong did not say if they intend to charge the complainant.

They said that they decided to withdraw the charges after reviewing the evidence and the defence’s representations.

While the media cannot identify her occupation, Mr Thuraisingam told the court that she was not a patient or staff member at Dr Yeo’s pain management clinic — The Pain Specialist — at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She is also not a fellow doctor.

The lawyer noted that she had admitted to knowingly giving false evidence on oath to the court and he argued that she was not an “alleged victim” but a “self-confessed perjurer”.

Even though an acquittal, which can be due to other reasons other than the accused being innocent, does not automatically mean a gag order is lifted, the defence said that this was an exceptional case with a distinctly different public interest at stake.

They argued: “She is not a ‘real’ victim who has been disappointed by the prosecution’s inability to prove the commission of an actual crime in court.

“She is a liar who has made false, scurrilous allegations against (Dr Yeo) — which were publicly reported over the course of more than a year during these proceedings in the name of open justice — and perjured herself… She should not be permitted now to abuse the protection of the gag order to escape the usual operation of the open justice principle."

Under cross-examination by Mr Thuraisingam, she had confessed to lying about Dr Yeo resting his hand on her hip, among other alleged offences, and to changing her version of events to make it seem more believable.

She also agreed that she would sometimes lie if it was in her self-interest, and that she lied so frequently in court that she could not remember when she told the truth.

‘AN ORDEAL’

In a public statement released to the media following his acquittal, Dr Yeo wrote that he “was the victim of false and scurrilous allegations by a female who interacted with me in the course of my practice as a medical specialist”.

He added: “The past four years have been an ordeal for me, my family and friends, my staff, and my patients.

“Despite the distinction and professionalism with which I have served the community as a doctor, I have had to endure the distress and ignominy of being publicly accused of sex crimes I did not commit.”

Dr Yeo also thanked his patients and colleagues for their trust in him, and the wider medical community — including hospitals and the Singapore Medical Association — for standing by him.

While he said he was glad that the truth had prevailed, he expressed his disappointment that the complainant had “jeopardised the good, necessary and difficult work of ensuring access to justice for real victims of sex crimes, many of whom already hesitate to accuse their attackers publicly”.

“I hope that today’s verdict does not discourage real victims of sex crimes from coming forward, or set back the moral agenda in their favour,” he added.

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