Doctor acquitted of molestation: AGC raises concern over defence lawyer's conduct, refutes claims in TOC article

Dr Yeo Sow Nam (left) was represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam in a case where he was accused of molesting a 32-year-old woman at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
Dr Yeo Sow Nam (left) was represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam in a case where he was accused of molesting a 32-year-old woman at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said on Wednesday (Sept 1) that statements made on social media by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam over the case of Dr Yeo Sow Nam, who was acquitted of molestation, were misleading.

His law firm then responded, saying it “respectfully takes a different view”.

This is the AGC’s second statement on the issue, a day after it said claims made by Mr Thuraisingam's firm that the accuser in the case had admitted to lying in court about "material elements" of her allegations of molestation were "misleading and regrettable".

It said: "AGC decided to make a public statement because of the gravity of what has happened - a court application appears, on its face, to have been brought for an improper purpose, and public allegations have been made against the complainant which are inaccurate."

The AGC added that "clear concern" has been raised that Mr Thuraisingam's conduct was improper, if his allegations against the woman were only made in open court so it would be picked up by the media and given publicity.

Mr Thuraisingam represented Dr Yeo, 52, who was accused of molesting a 32-year-old woman in Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Oct 9, 2017.

The AGC later withdrew the charges, leading to the acquittal last month.

Following this, Mr Thuraisingam's firm Eugene Thuraisingam LLP (ET LLP) had then issued a statement claiming the woman lied about "material elements" of her allegations of molestation.

The AGC issued a statement on Tuesday, saying these claims were "misleading and regrettable".

It said it would not be taking action against the woman, as the decision to withdraw the charges was not on the basis that she had been untruthful about the alleged molestation.

Instead, the decision was made after the prosecution assessed that several inconsistencies in the woman's account in court would affect the assessment of her overall evidence.

It also wrote to Mr Thuraisingam asking for an explanation of his conduct at about 4.10pm, less than an hour before the statement was released to the media.

ET LLP and Mr Thuraisingam responded with public statements at about 6.30pm.

They accused the AGC of making a "significant omission" that Mr Thuraisingam had raised in court the purported lies by the woman to reserve Dr Yeo's rights to apply for the gag order to be lifted at a later time should he wish to do so.

The AGC issued a statement at about 5.30pm on Wednesday responding to this, saying it disagreed and that this did not explain Mr Thuraisingam’s conduct.

"Even if Mr Thuraisingam believed he needed to reserve his client's rights, he could have simply said so without making detailed submissions on the complainant's character and credibility," it said.

"This raises serious questions on what Mr Thuraisingam was really seeking to do."

During the trial, the woman had demonstrated how she was molested.

Mr Thuraisingam said that her evidence was that Dr Yeo “molested her by touching her breasts with his palms facing outwards”, and that she later agreed during cross-examination it was impossible, as he was standing behind her.

The AGC said this was misleading, as the woman was consistent in saying Dr Yeo touched her breasts while standing behind her.

“The demonstration that the complainant made with her palms facing outwards was, in fact, a demonstration of how Dr Yeo’s palms allegedly cupped her breasts,” it said. 

“The complainant made it clear to Mr Thuraisingam that she was not lying in relation to the fact that Dr Yeo did touch her breasts.”

The AGC dismissed other examples of the woman’s purported lies raised by Mr Thuraisingam, saying these did not relate to the charges that were before the court.

It said it was still waiting on his response explaining his conduct, and will decide on its next course of action upon receiving it.

ET LLP issued a statement at about 8.20pm, noting that the two main areas of contention were the relevance of the woman’s purported lies, and the application of the gag order.

On the first, it said it took a different view from the AGC in relation to the woman’s demonstration and admissions in court, and that it was natural the prosecution and defence do not always see eye to eye on matters of a case.

On the second, ET LLP said it became aware of a relevant law only after it had made submissions, and “genuinely believed” the prosecution might object to Dr Yeo reviving his application if it did not expressly reserve his rights.

It also said it was “not unduly concerned” with the media coverage of the case.

Another statement issued by the AGC on Wednesday responded to the article by The Online Citizen (TOC) on Dr Yeo's case.

It said TOC's article was highly irresponsible, having claimed the AGC should have done the "right thing by charging the complainant", thus determining the guilt of the woman without basis.

It also refuted claims by TOC that the AGC misled the public and was "protecting its own skin".

"The article contains a series of complete falsehoods and makes a variety of unsubstantiated and inflammatory allegations," said the AGC.

"Underlying the article is the baseless assertion that where a prosecution concludes with an acquittal, whether by virtue of the prosecution withdrawing charges, or the court acquitting an accused after a full trial, it evidences wrongdoing on the part of AGC. This mischaracterises AGC's role and the nature of the judicial process... Unfortunately, TOC, in pursuing its own agenda, ignores this reality."