The judge closed Mr Tey Tsun Hang’s appeal hearing yesterday, vowing to consider why the former law professor told his student to have an abortion when he claimed they were in a “loving relationship”.
High Court Justice Woo Bih Li also questioned why he told Ms Darinne Ko he had no money to pay for the abortion in 2010 when he was working for the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Mr Tey, 42, was again absent from court and is believed to be in Malaysia with his parents. He is appealing against his conviction – for corruptly obtaining gifts and sex from Ms Ko – and five-month sentence from which he was released on Oct 5.
Ms Ko’s pregnancy came under scrutiny after Mr Tey’s lawyer Peter Low listed evidence and circumstances that Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye used to conclude that Mr Tey had corrupt intent and was guilty. Justice Woo interjected and wanted to know what had been said about Ms Ko’s abortion during the main trial earlier this year.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy said Ms Ko had called to inform Mr Tey about the baby, and she was told by him to abort it. He also claimed to have no money to pay for the abortion. Justice Woo noted Ms Ko, now 23, had been a student with no independent income while Mr Tey was an associate professor at NUS. He had reportedly been “drawing a comfortable salary of $225,000” there.
Justice Woo said it was a point he would consider. “Here is a man who says it was a ‘mutually loving relationship’ but who also said ‘get rid of it’ and that he didn’t have money to send to her,” he said.
In his closing submissions, Mr Low revisited his client’s defence that the relationship was “mutually loving”. He said Chief District Judge Tan had neglected to refer to both his client and Ms Ko’s testimonies on this aspect, as well as the cards of affection that Ms Ko gave to Mr Tey.
Justice Woo asked if Mr Tey had pursued this line of questioning while Ms Ko was on the witness stand. Mr Low conceded: “He did not put to her that there was a mutually loving relationship.”
Mr Low tried to bolster his client’s case by saying that the prosecution “did not have a smoking gun”, and that: “Your Honour must make a judgment from pieces of adduced evidence.”
Justice Woo then asked if the evidence Chief District Judge Tan had used in his judgment showed that there was “exploitation”. The question of whether Mr Tey’s actions amounted to corruption or simply exploitation of Ms Ko had been raised on the second day of the hearing.
Mr Low replied: “I’ve no instructions on that.”
Earlier in the day, DPP Jumabhoy furthered the prosecution’s argument there was corrupt intent on Mr Tey’s part. He pointed out Mr Tey had revealed confidential information about Ms Ko’s results and class ranking to her over a lunch, and suggested how she could improve her ranking. “He used his position in NUS for personal gain,” said the DPP.
He also argued that as a law lecturer and a former district judge, Mr Tey “would have been aware of the conflict” – of being in a position of influence over the student and her academic performance. Referring to the university’s code of conduct, DPP Jumabhoy added: “If rules are there and you carry on, the only inference to be drawn from such conduct is that you intended to breach them.”
The prosecution also tried to persuade Justice Woo that NUS is a “public body”. The defence had argued that because NUS was corporatised in 2006, it is autonomous. Mr Low later said Justice Woo was “entitled” to accept the prosecution’s argument. A judgment is expected at a later date.