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Law professor ‘morally reprehensible’, not ‘corrupt’

SINGAPORE — Her love notes to him showed she wanted nothing more than his love, in return for her gifts and sex with him — which former law professor Tey Tsun Hang knew and took advantage of to satisfy his greed and lust.

Law professor ‘morally reprehensible’, not ‘corrupt’

Mr Tey Tsun Hang was quoted by Yahoo! Singapore as saying the prosecution against him was politically motivated. TODAY FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE — Her love notes to him showed she wanted nothing more than his love, in return for her gifts and sex with him — which former law professor Tey Tsun Hang knew and took advantage of to satisfy his greed and lust.

However, while his exploitation and manipulation of his former student Darinne Ko was “morally reprehensible”, it did not amount to corruption under the law, ruled Justice Woo Bih Li yesterday, as he overturned all six of Mr Tey’s graft convictions and set aside the five-month jail sentence that he had chosen to serve despite filing an appeal with the courts — which means he will not have a criminal record.

“I am of the view that the trial judge had wrongly equated conduct which is morally reprehensible with conduct which is legally wrong,” the judge said. “His conduct was morally wrong, but that is not corruption for the purposes of the (Prevention of Corruption) Act.”

But Justice Woo stressed that his ruling vindicated Mr Tey only on the criminal charges. In scathing remarks on the 42-year-old, the judge called him a “man without honour”, who should take a “long hard look” at himself and “change for the better”.

“This court does not condone the way he abused his position and exploited Ms Ko,” Justice Woo added.

Mr Tey was prosecuted for corruption after sleeping with Ms Ko in July 2010, when she was a sophomore at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) law faculty, where he was teaching then.

The former district judge also faced graft charges for accepting a Mont Blanc pen, two tailored shirts and an iPod, as well as a meal with other students costing over S$1,000 from Ms Ko, 24.

During his trial, Mr Tey had maintained that he was in a mutually loving relationship with Ms Ko.

In acquitting Mr Tey yesterday, Justice Woo disputed this, saying that it was one-sided love on the part of Ms Ko. Her state of mind when she gave him the gifts, however, was “significant in understanding the context of the transaction in question and what the appellant would have understood the intention behind the gratification to be”.

Referring to three cards and a note — in which she professed her love for him — accompanying the gifts from Ms Ko to Mr Tey, the judge said: “The appellant must have known from their relationship and the two cards that she was infatuated with him. There was nothing to suggest from the contemporaneous evidence that he believed she wanted something more than his love in return.”

This knowledge had a bearing on whether there was a corrupt intent, he added. The S$514.80 penalty Mr Tey was ordered to pay — the cost of two tailored shirts and part of a restaurant bill paid for by Ms Ko — will also be refunded to him.

Justice Woo also found no reason to disturb the trial judge’s decision in dismissing Mr Tey’s multiple allegations of threats and oppression by Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau officers to force confessions out of him. He also ticked Mr Tey off for adopting a “machine-gun approach” in making allegations against the officers.

The judge agreed with the prosecution’s submissions that NUS, although autonomous, was a public body and, therefore, its employees are also accountable under the PCA.

Mr Tey’s contract with the university was terminated after his conviction last May.

When contacted, an NUS spokesperson said Mr Tey might choose to petition for reinstatement at the university, but noted that he would remain liable for any acts contrary to the NUS Staff Code of Conduct.

He added that a Committee of Inquiry would be appointed to determine whether Mr Tey was guilty of any misconduct and issue sanctions, if warranted, should he seek to return.

Mr Tey, who is understood to be living in Johor Baru with his wife and daughter, was not in court yesterday. He did not respond to TODAY’s queries on his thoughts about his acquittal, but was quoted by Yahoo! Singapore as saying the prosecution against him was politically motivated.

Asked if it would appeal against the acquittal, an Attorney-General’s Chambers spokesperson said there was no right of appeal from a Magistrate’s Appeal.

“Nevertheless, the prosecution will study carefully the full written grounds of the High Court before deciding whether any further action is necessary,” she added.

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