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Doctor acquitted of molestation: AGC will not take action against woman who accused him

SINGAPORE — About two weeks after a doctor was acquitted of molesting a woman at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) issued a statement to say that it will not be taking any action against the woman who had accused him of the offence. This was because there was no finding by the court that she had lied or given inconsistent evidence.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said that some inconsistencies had arisen in the course of a woman’s evidence in court, but most of the evidence did not involve her account of an alleged outrage of modesty by Dr Yeo Sow Nam.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said that some inconsistencies had arisen in the course of a woman’s evidence in court, but most of the evidence did not involve her account of an alleged outrage of modesty by Dr Yeo Sow Nam.

  • The Attorney-General’s Chambers said that the prosecution withdrew molestation charges against Dr Yeo Sow Nam because the alleged victim’s evidence would not be "unusually convincing"
  • Crucially, the court did not find that the woman had lied or had even given inconsistent evidence
  • AGC also said it was "misleading and regrettable" that Dr Yeo’s lawyers claimed that the woman admitted to lying in court about some of her allegations 
  • In response to AGC, the law firm denied that its statement was misleading

 

SINGAPORE — About two weeks after a doctor was acquitted of molesting a woman at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) issued a statement to say that it will not be taking any action against the woman who had accused him of the offence.

This was because there was no finding by the court that she had lied or given inconsistent evidence.

What happened was that when the court case was ongoing, after reviewing the evidence, the prosecution applied for a discharge amounting to an acquittal for Dr Yeo Sow Nam, 52, an anaesthetist, before his lawyer could defend him during the trial.

AGC said on Tuesday (Aug 31) that the prosecution withdrew the charges against Dr Yeo because it decided that the woman’s evidence would not be "unusually convincing" to secure a conviction for such a case under the law — and not because she had been “untruthful about the alleged outrage of modesty”.

AGC also said it was "misleading and regrettable" that Dr Yeo’s lawyers from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP had issued a public statement claiming that the woman admitted to lying in court about “material elements” of her allegations against the doctor.

In response to AGC on Tuesday, the law firm denied that its statement was misleading.

WHAT THE COURT HEARD

Dr Yeo, who runs a pain management clinic called The Pain Specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Orchard Road, initially faced four charges of molesting the woman on Oct 9 in 2017. She was not a patient or a staff member of the clinic or a fellow doctor.

The woman, now aged 33, had alleged that he kissed the side of her head on two occasions and groped her chest, among other deeds.

AGC said that during the trial in March, some inconsistencies had arisen in the course of the woman’s evidence in court. However, most of the evidence did not involve her account of the alleged outrage of modesty

"The inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence did not, in the main, relate to the substance of her allegations against Dr Yeo for outrage of modesty.

"There is also no evidence to suggest that the complainant fabricated her account of events regarding the alleged outrage of modesty.

“Critically, there is no finding by the court in this case that the complainant had lied or had even given inconsistent evidence."

The prosecution assessed that the inconsistencies, taken as a whole, would likely affect the assessment of the woman’s overall evidence, AGC added.

“There was a risk that the complainant might not meet the high threshold set in such cases, of showing that she was unusually convincing. 

“For this reason, the prosecution decided to withdraw the charges against Dr Yeo. The prosecution did not reach its decision on the basis that the complainant had been untruthful about the alleged outrage of modesty,” AGC said.

When a suspect is on trial for a sex crime based solely on a complainant’s evidence, the testimony has to be unusually convincing and the prosecution needs to prove all charges beyond reasonable doubt before the suspect can be convicted.

AGC added that it had charged Dr Yeo "after it was assessed by several prosecutors that the complainant’s evidence was very convincing, and that the charges against Dr Yeo could be proven". 

WHAT LAWYER SAID IN COURT

On Aug 16, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Dr Yeo’s lawyer, told the court that the woman 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”.

He also called her “a liar who has made false, scurrilous allegations against (Dr Yeo)… and perjured herself.”

When cross-examined by the lawyer, 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.

The judge ruled that a gag order on the woman’s identity will remain in force, after the defence lawyers wanted to apply to lift the order. 

The defence acknowledged that the law prohibits anyone from naming her until or if she is charged with giving false evidence and Mr Thuraisingam added that they reserve their rights to apply for the lifting of the gag order in future.

In its statement on Tuesday, AGC said that if there is clear evidence that a person has lied under oath in legal proceedings, it will “seriously consider commencing proceedings against the person for perjury”.

“There is at present a case pending before the courts where such proceedings have been commenced, and investigations are ongoing in respect of other cases,” it added.

On the allegation that Dr Yeo had squeezed her waist, the woman was not consistent and clear as to whether she was seated or standing at the time of the alleged incident, but she still disagreed with Dr Yeo’s lawyers when they accused her of fabricating the incident, AGC noted.

“With respect to the complainant’s evidence on Dr Yeo’s alleged touches on her hip, the complainant testified under cross-examination that she could no longer recall whether Dr Yeo had patted, tapped or rested his hand on her hip.

“She maintained that Dr Yeo had nonetheless touched her hip. When Dr Yeo’s lawyer asserted that Dr Yeo had not touched her hips in any way, the complainant disagreed. Importantly, this alleged incident did not form the basis of any of the charges against Dr Yeo,” AGC said.

Mr Thuraisingam used the court process to advance similar allegations against the woman but changed his position before the court could rule on the allegations, AGC added.

“The complainant specifically denied Dr Yeo’s lawyers’ accusations that she had lied and fabricated the alleged acts of outrage of modesty in respect of all the charges against Dr Yeo.”

AGC took note that at the hearing on Aug 16, apart from accusing the woman of being a liar, Mr Thuraisingam “quoted extensively” from selected portions of the woman’s evidence and his written submissions to lift the gag order for her identity to be made public.

"However, immediately after concluding his submissions, Mr Thuraisingam abruptly changed his position. He suddenly agreed with the prosecution that there was no basis to lift the gag order, and withdrew his application," said AGC.

It has written to Mr Thuraisingam asking for an explanation of his conduct.

WHAT LAW FIRM SAYS IN RESPONSE

In a statement responding to AGC, Mr Thuraisingam’s firm said it was not true that its statements were misleading and provided five examples of the woman allegedly admitting to lying in court.

  • The woman gave evidence that Dr Yeo molested her by touching her chest with his palms facing outwards. She later agreed under cross-examination that it was impossible for him to have done so since he was standing behind her

  • She testified that when Dr Yeo molested her, she raised her arms towards the ceiling to try and get away from him. She also showed this in court. She later agreed under cross-examination that even though she could not recall raising her arms, she was prepared to say and demonstrate this in court

  • She admitted that when she told the court that she remembered Dr Yeo resting his hand on her hip, she was telling a lie

  • She admitted that she told the court things that she could not recall and that by doing so, she was knowingly giving false evidence in court. She also admitted that she had lied so many times that she could not remember when she was telling the truth and when she was lying

  • She admitted that the evidence she gave in court in relation to her movements in the room after Dr Yeo allegedly touched her chest was false, because she had no recollection of her movements

As for the gag order, the law firm said: “The application to lift the gag order was withdrawn at the hearing on Aug 16, but (we) made it clear to the court that Dr Yeo reserved his right to bring an application to lift the gag order in the event that the prosecution brought charges against the complainant for telling the lies stated above.” 

Following the release of the statements by AGC and his law firm, Mr Thuraisingam said in a Facebook post that AGC has threatened him with disciplinary action for allegedly abusing the court’s process by taking the court through the woman's lies but yet withdrew Dr Yeo’s application to lift the gag order on her identity.

Mr Thuraisingam added that AGC had made a “significant omission” in its statement by not saying that he had reserved Dr Yeo’s rights to bring a fresh application, thereby giving the impression that he had no reason on that day to bring the court through the complainant’s lies.

"I respectfully believe that it is unfair of AGC to give only part of the facts to the press without giving me the chance to present the full picture."

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