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Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam fined S$4,000 for breaching gag order in doctor acquittal case

SINGAPORE — Prominent criminal lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was fined S$4,000 on Tuesday (Aug 30) for breaching a gag order in a case involving a doctor, who was accused of molestation charges and was eventually acquitted.

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam (pictured) was fined S$4,000 for breaching a gag order.
Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam (pictured) was fined S$4,000 for breaching a gag order.
  • Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was fined S$4,000 for breaching a gag order by the State Courts
  • He was defending a doctor who was later acquitted of molestation charges
  • Thuraisingam had instructed his associate to distribute transcripts to the press that could reveal the complainant's identity
  • The judge said that his actions risked "re-victimising" the complainant, which was what the gag order wanted to avoid

SINGAPORE — Prominent criminal lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was fined S$4,000 on Tuesday (Aug 30) for breaching a gag order in a case involving a doctor, who was accused of molestation charges and was eventually acquitted.

Principal District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said at the hearing in the State Courts that regardless of the acquittal, by providing details of the accuser to the media, Thuraisingam's actions risked "re-victimising" her, which was what the gag order was meant to avoid.

The gag order specified that no person shall publish anything that could lead to the identification of the complainant in the proceedings. The complainant is the person who had originally accused the doctor, Dr Yeo Sow Nam, of molest.

However, the 47-year-old lawyer admitted on Tuesday that he had instructed his associate Johannes Hadi from Thuraisingam’s eponymous law firm to distribute transcripts of Dr Yeo’s trial to the media, in which crucial information that could lead to her identity was not edited.

The transcripts contained the complainant’s age, date of birth, employer as well as occupation at the time and during the time of the alleged offences, which the prosecution said was likely to lead to the complainant being identified.

They also revealed the identities of the colleagues of the complainants who served as witnesses in the proceedings, as well as the name of the product marketed by the complainant and her relationship with Dr Yeo.

Thuraisingam was fined after he pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of breaching the gag order. Another similar charge was taken into consideration during sentencing.

Hadi, 32, likewise faces two similar charges. His case is pending before the courts.


The court heard that transcripts were sent out to news media on two occasions.

The first was in early March last year after Dr Yeo was tried for molestation against the complainant. The trial was held in camera, meaning it was not open to the public and the press.

Thuraisingam was lead counsel of a three-man defence team and Hadi, who had been practising law for two years at the time, was also part of it. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sivakumar Ramasamy said that at the time, a gag order was in place that prohibited the publication of the name, address or photograph of the complainant or any evidence or thing likely to lead to her identification.

On March 5, Thuraisingam sought the trial judge’s permission to distribute the transcripts of the proceedings to the press.

The judge granted the application on the basis that Thuraisingam would take the necessary steps to remove any identification information and that there would be no breach of the gag order.

On March 16, Thuraisingam told Hadi over email to black out the complainant’s name and to remind the press not to print her name, without instructing him to redact other critical information.

Hadi did as he was told and sent the transcripts of the first four days of the trial to reporters from Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp.

On June 26, the prosecution applied to withdraw the molestation charges against Dr Yeo at a pre-trial conference. At that conference, Thuraisingam indicated that he would be applying for the gag order to be lifted.

Ahead of the court hearing over this matter, written submissions were filed on Aug 4 by the defence and the prosecution. 

The prosecution contested the lifting of the gag order and instead applied to enlarge its scope to also include the identities of the prosecution witnesses who were the complainant’s colleagues, the names of the products marketed by the complainant, her relationship with Dr Yeo and the name of her company at the time of the alleged offences.

Thuraisingam then told Hadi to distribute to the press the transcripts of the trial, which by then had included transcripts for the fifth day, as well as the defence’s written submissions for the gag order to be lifted.

The senior lawyer did not instruct Hadi to remove information that would likely lead to the complainant’s identification.

Hadi redacted the documents as he did before, with only the complainant’s name concealed, and sent them to reporters from seven different news companies.

Included in the transcripts was a note saying: “All transcripts have been redacted pursuant to the gag order in place at the time of writing in relation to the identification of the complainant.”

At the court hearing on Aug 16 during which the judge allowed the prosecution to withdraw the charges against Dr Yeo, Thuraisingam also withdrew his application to have the gag order lifted.

The judge also granted the prosecution’s request to have the gag order expanded after Thuraisingam said that he took “no position” on that matter.


Before the sentence was delivered on Tuesday, DPP Sivakumar sought a fine of at least S$4,000, saying that Thuraisingam did not take adequate steps to ensure that the gag order was not breached.

Thuraisingam’s lawyer Jerrie Tan argued that “no actual harm” was caused because of this oversight, adding that the complainant’s name, which was most critical to revealing her identity, was redacted.

Seeking a similar S$4,000 fine, Ms Tan from K&L Gates Straits Law urged the judge to consider that Thuraisingam, who has been practising law for more than 20 years, has dedicated a large part of his career doing pro-bono work, especially for accused persons facing the death penalty.

Over the course of that, several of them have been saved from the gallows, she said. 

One of the pro-bono cases that Thuraisingam took on was a legal challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code by disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, Ms Tan added. 

While the challenge was ultimately unsuccessful, the Court of Appeal’s judgement in that case eventually led to the Government repealing Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, she said.

While delivering his sentence, Principal District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said that the act of providing the transcript had the potential to cause harm to the complainant.

The information that was not redacted could have led to her “re-victimisation”, which was what the gag order was supposed to guard against, he added.

Those convicted of breaching a State Courts order can be fined up to S$5,000 or jailed for up to 12 months, or punished with both.

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