Judge rejects bid for protection order by MD

After Jackson Teo quit, he sent allegedly offensive SMS and e-mail messages, as well as posted online reviews and a blog titled "A Cautionary Tale".
After Jackson Teo quit, he sent allegedly offensive SMS and e-mail messages, as well as posted online reviews and a blog titled "A Cautionary Tale".PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

While there was harassment in the case, the culprit was unlikely to keep doing it, she rules

A judge has rejected a managing director's move for a protection order against harassment, ruling that while there was harassment, the culprit was not likely to continue doing it.

In a case that tested when such an order under the Protection from Harassment Act would be issued, the judge made clear there has to be two elements: harassment and its likelihood of continuing.

"All things considered, the (culprit's) conduct post-9 June 2018 pointed towards an attempt to contain rather than to perpetuate the conflict," said District Judge Josephine Kang.

"In the premises, I found that the harassment was unlikely to continue. I also found that a future contravention was unlikely," she added in decision grounds made last month.

Mr Lai Kwok Kin, then 59, had applied for the protection order against former employee Jackson Teo, then 35, alleging he used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that breached the relevant provisions of the Act.

Mr Teo had a run-in with interns at Mr Lai's company - WeR1 Consultants - after starting work on May 18, 2018.

He resigned 11 days later after a meeting with Mr Lai and two company officials.

WeR1 is a financial communications company that helps businesses to raise their profile, and offers litigation public relations services.

After he quit, Mr Teo sent allegedly offensive SMS and e-mail messages, as well as posted online reviews and a blog titled "A Cautionary Tale", which Mr Lai argued was tantamount to harassment.

District Judge Kang said she found one of three e-mails sent to Mr Lai in May 2018 to contain several instances of threatening and insulting communication. Taken as a whole, the e-mail threatened to harm Mr Lai's livelihood and reputation.

She also found the series of reviews and blog posts to have insulting comments about Mr Lai.

By June 9, 2018, Mr Jackson Teo had removed the adverse reviews of his own accord and his e-mail then was "relatively conciliatory".... Among other things, he made no further offending communications against Mr Lai Kwok Kin, and had taken down the blog in August 2018...

Among other things, Mr Teo had specifically sent a message to Mr Lai on June 7, 2018, notifying him to check the company's Facebook that night. It had posts with insulting remarks to harass Mr Lai.

"Taken in totality, I found Mr Teo's communication had descended into harassment, particularly when he resorted to posting the insulting comments online on multiple social media platforms," said the judge.

Mr Lai, represented by lawyer Nandwani Manoj Prakash, said Mr Teo's communication had left him "shaken", and caused him sleepless nights and heart palpitations.

He added that he was distressed and uncertain if such incidents would not recur.

Mr Teo, defended by lawyer Nicholas Poon, argued that by June 9, 2018, he had removed the adverse reviews of his own accord and his e-mail then was "relatively conciliatory", indicating his intention to resolve the matter amicably.

Among other things, he made no further offending communications against Mr Lai, and had taken down the blog in August 2018 when notified that it remained live.

Given these actions and finding no objective evidence that Mr Lai had suffered prolonged stress-related physiological symptoms arising from the incident, District Judge Kang ruled it was "not just and equitable for a (protection order) to be issued".

Mr Lai is appealing against the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Judge rejects bid for protection order by MD'. Print Edition | Subscribe