[UPDATED on Friday, 28 February at 4:45pm: Adding comments from AGC]
Former National University of Singapore law professor Tey Tsun Hang, who was previously convicted in a sex-for-grades scandal, was on Friday morning acquitted of all his charges in Singapore’s High Court on appeal.
Justice Woo Bih Li criticised his character strongly in court, however, calling him “a man without honour” and adding that his actions were morally reprehensible, even if they were not corrupt.
Reading out an abridged version of a 113-page judgement to a packed courtroom, Justice Woo said as a lecturer, Tey had exploited his student Darinne Ko, the girl at the centre of the scandal, whom he had sex with, impregnated and made her have an abortion that she had to pay for on her own.
Tey had also accepted gifts from her — an iPod worth $160, a Mont Blanc pen worth $740 and two tailored shirts worth $236.20 — and also made her pay for a formal dinner he had with some of his former students, the bill of which came up to $1,278.60.
Justice Woo said, however, that Ko’s affectionately-written messages to Tey in three cards and a note, as well as a series of email exchanges, proved that she was in love with him at the time.
He said these showed that the trial judge, former Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, had earlier concluded incorrectly that the reason for Ko’s actions was to get better grades in return. Tan was also wrong to equate morally reprehensible conduct with what is legally wrong, added Justice Woo.
Last year, Tey was sentenced to five months' jail for six counts of corruptly obtaining sex and gifts, as an inducement for showing favour in assessing her academic performance. He opted to serve out the jail term first pending the outcome of his appeal against both his conviction and sentence, and left the country afterward.
He was also fined a sum of $514.80, the balance from the money Ko paid for the dinner and tailored shirts, of which Tey had returned $1,000 to her in a cheque previously. This sum, alongside the items that were taken from him, will be returned to him.
Justice Woo made clear that he was vindicating Tey of his corruption charges only, criticising his conduct, his exploitation of Ko and the way he conducted his defence during his trial, saying they "also reflected poorly on him".
“This court does not condone the way he abused his position and exploited Ms Ko,” said Justice Woo."He took advantage of her to satisfy his greed and his lust. He did not even take responsibility when she told him that she was pregnant. Instead, he lied to her that he had no money when he told her to get rid of the baby. He is a man without honour."
Tey himself was not present in court to receive the judgement. Responding to the acquittal, however, Tey's defence lawyer Peter Low said he was glad to hear Justice Woo's decision.
"This criminal trial has been a long journey," he said in a short statement.
Responding to queries, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said in a statement that it has no right of appeal against the decision made by Justice Woo, but the prosecution will study the full grounds of decision before deciding on any possible necessary further action.
An AGC spokesperson also said that both judges came to agreement that Tey's statements were not tainted by threat or inducement, and therefore vindicated the integrity of the statement recording mechanisms used at the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.