Relationship was not about grades or exploitation: NUS law professor

Law professor Tey Tsun Hang arrives at the Subordinate Courts on Tuesday, 9 April for the verdict of his trial-within-a-trial, on the admissibility of six statements he made to officers in the CPIB. (Yahoo! photo)

[UPDATE: 15 April, 627pm: Law professor Tey Tsun Hang says his relationship with former student Darinne Ko had nothing to do with exploitation or grades, but everything to do with an "intense" courtship, reported local media.

"The entire relationship, how it started, became intense and how it ended had never anything to do with money or with any notion of exploitation, abuse or any wishful notion of taking advantage of anybody, let alone this idea of corrupt relationship," Tey said in the latest twist to the case.]

Hearings for National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Tey Tsun Hang’s main sex-for-grades corruption case resumed Tuesday, after the judge ruled in the morning that six statements initially called into question be admitted as evidence.

Last week, Tey’s case for the voir dire — a trial within a trial — was that six of the statements he made and signed under the gaze of investigating officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) between 5 April and 24 May last year were done under duress, threats, humiliation and intimidation, and should therefore not be admitted as evidence in the trial.

After a 10-day hearing, Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye decided that he was unable to accept Tey’s claims that he was in an altered mental state and was suffering from acute stress disorder, and that it was because of these and the fact that Tey was on psychiatric medication for his acute stress disorder that his statements were involuntarily given.

Tan said that even though doctors who took the stand had testified to his disorder, they had also said that their diagnoses depended in large part on the information provided by the patient.

“If the information provided was inaccurate, false, that would affect the psychiatrist’s diagnosis of the patient’s condition,” he said. “It should also be noted that the accused admitted that no one threatened him with actual physical harm or death to himself or to his family which is a requirement… for acute stress disorder. This was not the allegations in this case.”

Tan also said the symptoms of tieria, hyperventilation and acute stress reaction all point toward those exhibited by a person under stress, which would not render the statements given as involuntary under Section 258 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides that the stress and anxiety from the person in authority (meaning the CPIB officer) would have to consist of inducement, threats or promises.

He concluded that Tey had “exaggerated and fabricated” some of the details of the events that took place on 2 April 2012, when he was first admitted into hospital — as Tey’s accounts of them in court differed from those of the CPIB officers who testified. Tan said he deemed the CPIB officers to be truthful witnesses.

The judge also questioned Tey’s failure to lodge a police report or inform any of his NUS law colleagues that he had suffered from harsh treatment at the hands of the CPIB officers when he had ample opportunities to consult with his lawyers, his colleagues and the police.

He also noted that Tey, a law professor, former district judge, justice law clerk, seat counsel in the Attorney-General’s Chambers as well as a practising lawyer, would have understood fully to inform any other parties of the alleged threats and harsh treatment, but yet pointed out that there was no evidence of this.

Tey, who is facing charges of accepting sex and gifts from his former student Darinne Ko in exchange for better grades, kept his head down throughout District Judge Tan’s verbal delivery of his verdict, sitting in the dock and reading a copy of Greek sage and Stoic philosopher Epictetus's The Handbook. His trial, now in the stage of defence, continued after the judge announced his ruling.