Law firm which represented Dr Yeo Sow Nam, the anaesthetist who was acquitted of four charges of molest issues statement to rebut allegations made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in its press statement on Tuesday (31 Aug).
On 16 August 2021, the State Courts granted AGC’s application to withdraw the four criminal charges against Dr Yeo for outraging the modesty of a female complainant.
Eugene Thuraisingam LLP (ET LLP) in an earlier public statement prior to the acquittal, wrote to the press to highlight how the female complainant admitted to lying in court about “material elements” of her allegations of outrage of modesty, against Dr Yeo”.
In AGC’s press statement on Tuesday, it claims that the law firm’s statement were “misleading and regrettable”.
It stated that charges were preferred against 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.
The Prosecution decided to withdraw the charges against Dr Yeo after considering the risk that the inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence might not meet the high threshold set in a case that relies solely on the testimony of the alleged victim.
AGC also stated it will not be pressing charges against the complainant for giving false evidence as there is no finding by the Court in this case that the complainant had lied or had even given inconsistent evidence.
There is also no evidence to suggest that the complainant fabricated her account of events regarding the alleged outrage of modesty, said AGC.
It noted the complainant had 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 also found issue with how Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, who is counsel for Dr Yeo, change his position before the Court could rule on the allegations about the complainant lying in court.
However, TOC notes that it was the Prosecution that earlier pointed out to the Court that the law requires the complainant to be charged with perjury before the court can lift the gag order on the complainant. Meaning Mr Thuraisingam would have noted that it was pointless to continue with the application.
Mr Thuraisingam also notes this in a Facebook post, stating that he had informed the court that he agreed with the Prosecution’s position that “unless the complainant was charged and convicted in court for lying, the court cannot lift the gag order”
“While I withdrew the application to lift the gag order, I applied to do so while reserving Dr Yeo’s rights to apply for the gag order to be lifted in the event that the complainant is charged and convicted, on the basis of the complainant’s lies which I had earlier taken the court through.” said Mr Thuraisingam
AGC also stated that it has written to Mr Thuraisingam asking for an explanation of his conduct set out above, as an officer of the Court.
In response to AGC’s statement, ET LLP said its earlier statement were not misleading.
It set out below instances of the complainant’s admissions.
- The complainant’s evidence was that Dr Yeo molested her by touching her breasts with his palms facing outwards. She later agreed under cross-examination that it was impossible for Dr Yeo to have done so as he was standing behind her.
- The complainant testified that when Dr Yeo molested her, she raised her arms up towards the ceiling to try and get away from him. She also physically demonstrated this in Court. She later agreed under cross-examination that despite having no actual recollection of this (i.e., raising her arms towards the ceiling), she was nevertheless prepared to say and demonstrate this to the 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 did not have any recollection of, 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 cupped her breasts was false because she did not have any independent recollection of where she moved to.
The portions of the above evidence are referenced in ET LLP’s submissions to lift the gag order dated 4 August 2021.
Gag order to remain unless complainant is charged by AGC
The woman, whose identity is currently protected under a gag order, is said to be not a patient or staff member at Dr Yeo’s pain management clinic. She is also not a fellow doctor.
Dr Yeo’s lawyers in their application for the gag order on the complainant’s identity to be lifted, 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.”
It therefore follows that upon Dr Yeo’s acquittal, the raison d’être of the gag order falls away entirely. The complainant is no longer a purported victim of a sex crime who deserves protection from public scrutiny pursuant to the specific legislative exceptions.
“Further and more importantly, the complainant’s self-confessed perjury sways the public interest calculus decisively in favour of lifting the gag order,” Dr Yeo’s lawyers said.
Generally, the granting of a DATA (discharge amounting to an acquittal) should not necessarily result in the lifting of any gag orders in place on the identification of a complainant, as acquittals “may be granted for any number of reasons which may be unconnected with an accused’s factual innocence”, they added.
The complainant is not an “unproven victim” by operation of the legal presumption of innocence, but rather is “a self-confessed perjurer” who has admitted to lying to the court about material elements of her allegations against Dr Yeo, the doctor’s lawyers submitted.
“Her lies not only completely undermine the veracity and credibility of her allegations, but are themselves criminal offences under inter alia section 191 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) which provides for the offence of giving false evidence under oath,” they said.
The woman’s perjury in this case “clearly and decisively vindicate” Dr Yeo’s “factual innocence” and “disqualify her from continued protection under the gag order”, said Dr Yeo’s lawyers.
“The public interest presently at stake, therefore, concerns open justice and public confidence in the administration of justice,” they added.
Further, the press, said the lawyers, is bound to report on the Prosecution’s mid-trial decision to withdraw the charges against Dr Yeo and the subsequent DATA granted to him.
“It may also report our submissions on the complainant’s perjury for the public to form its own views on the reasons for the Prosecution’s volte-face in seeking Dr Yeo’s acquittal,” they added.
However, the Prosecution submitted that the gag order should be upheld, citing Section 153(4) of the Women’s Charter and Section 425A of the Criminal Procedure Code. Only if the woman is charged for perjury can the gag order be removed.
District Judge Ng Peng Hong then ruled that the gag order will remain in force.