69-year-old general practitioner Wee Teong Boo was cleared of raping one of his long-term patients in February last year, but was nevertheless convicted of and sentenced for sexually assaulting and molesting the same patient more than 4 years ago.
Now, he is back before the Court of Appeal on Thursday (26th March) to argue that his convictions on these two charges are wrong, while the Prosecution had cross-appealed on the basis that Justice Chua Lee Ming had wrongly acquitted him of rape “against the weight of the evidence”.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, together with Judge of Appeal Steven Chong and Justice Belinda Ang, heard arguments from both Chief Prosecutor Lee Lit Cheng and Mr Eugene Thuraisingam for three and a half hours, and reserved judgment on both appeals.
The complainant, who had been treated by Dr Wee for gastric issues and dermatitis about a year before the alleged incidents, went to his clinic on 25th November 2015 for yet another consultation visit. In the course of examination, the complainant apparently felt Dr Wee stroking her vaginal area and found it ‘weird’.
She went to a polyclinic on 5th December 2015 and requested for a female doctor, who examined the same area again and confirmed that there is a lump, more accurately a swollen lymph node, on her groin. This led her to be assured that Dr Wee’s actions were medically justifiable.
She returned to Dr Wee’s clinic on 30th December 2015 for frequent urination and genital itch. During the examination, the complainant’s shorts and panties were removed; she claimed that she heard the sound of zippers and then felt something poking into the vagina.
At that point, Dr Wee was supporting her legs with both hands. When she was pulled into a “half-sit” position then she saw Dr Wee’s pants unzipped and his penis partially in her vagina. She gestured her left hand for Dr Wee to stop.
After she returned home following the alleged ordeal, the complainant asked her mother under what circumstances a doctor could check a patient’s private parts; she also told her mother that she felt violated by Dr Wee but did not state the precise thing he had allegedly put in her vagina.
The complainant then made a police report against Dr Wee for rape, and further accused him of molesting her during the 25th November 2015 visit.
Justice Chua found that there was a reasonable doubt as to whether Dr Wee could have penetrated his penis into the complainant’s vagina while both of his hands were holding on to her legs, given that the medical evidence adduced suggested that he required the assistance of one hand in order to perform penile penetration. He therefore acquitted Dr Wee of the rape charge, but found him guilty of a digital penetration charge based on his (Dr Wee’s) own account and the molestation charge based on the complainant’s “honest and believable” testimony.
On the Prosecution’s appeal against the acquittal of Dr Wee on the rape charge, Ms Lee first argued that as the complainant had been found to be an honest witness, Justice Chua should have also accepted her account that Dr Wee had penetrated her vagina with his penis.
As for the evidence adduced in relation to Dr Wee’s erectile dysfunction, Ms Lee argued that Dr Wee and his wife had given inconsistent accounts at trial as to his sexual abilities and were therefore afterthoughts.
Rebutting this, Mr Thuraisingam pointed out that the medical reports procured by the police and which diagnosed Dr Wee with erectile dysfunction, were only given to the Defence after Dr Wee elected to take the stand and give evidence. At that stage, there was no obligation on the part of Dr Wee to describe his sexual abilities in detail since the Defence’s case was that the sexual assaults had never taken place.
Mr Thuraisingam, in arguing that Dr Wee’s convictions on the digital penetration and molestation charges should be set aside, raised questions as to the complainant’s credibility on three aspects.
In particular, the complainant had given differing accounts between her statements to the police and her testimony at trial as to the purpose of her visit to the polyclinic; and her account that her toes were barely reaching the photocopier machine during the alleged rape, was described as “incredible” because there were plastic boxes standing the way all along.
Ms Lee and Mr Thuraisingam had also agreed that Justice Chua wrongly convicted Dr Wee on the digitial penetration charge based on Dr Wee’s account alone, though Ms Lee maintained that Dr Wee “had suffered no prejudice” and therefore this aspect of Justice Chua’s decision should stand.
This was admonished by both CJ Menon and Justice Chong, who pointed out that both the complainant’s account and the Prosecution’s case was that no digital penetration had taken place.
Dr Wee currently remains out on bail.