Doctor originally accused of rape is acquitted of all charges after Court of Appeal overturns convictions

Doctor originally accused of rape is acquitted of all charges after Court of Appeal overturns convictions

Wee Teong Boo
General practitioner Wee Teong Boo allegedly raped the victim during a late-night consultation in 2015. (Photo: TODAY/Koh Mui Fong)

SINGAPORE: A doctor accused of raping a patient five years ago in his Bedok clinic was acquitted of all charges against him on Wednesday (Jun 10), after the Court of Appeal agreed with the defence that convicting the man on sexual assault when he was tried for rape is "highly prejudicial".

Dr Wee Teong Boo, 69, was sentenced to 10 years' jail in February last year after being found guilty of a charge of sexual assault by digital penetration and a second charge of outraging the patient's modesty.

He had originally been accused of raping a 23-year-old patient during a late-night consultation on Dec 30, 2015. 

In February last year, he was acquitted of the rape charge and found guilty of the lesser charges of sexual assault by penetration and outrage of modesty.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal of the rape charge and overturned the convictions on the sexual assault and outrage of modesty charges.

This was after both the defence and the prosecution appealed, with the prosecution asking the court to convict Dr Wee of the rape charge and affirm his conviction of the molest charge, and to increase his sentence if the sexual assault charge was upheld.

The defence asked for the convictions of the sexual assault and outrage of modesty charges to be overturned, and for the court to affirm the acquittal of the rape charge.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with Judges of Appeal Steven Chong and Belinda Ang, said the medical evidence clearly established that Dr Wee did suffer from erectile dysfunction at the time of the alleged rape.

The patient had claimed that she was raped during the consultation with Dr Wee.

READ: Doctor gets 10 years’ jail for sexually assaulting patient in Bedok clinic

"We find it implausible that Dr Wee could have penetrated (the woman's) vagina in the manner she described," the judges said.

The court noted that a doctor who had testified at the trial had explained that it would be greatly difficult for someone with erectile dysfunction to have unaided penile penetration, "especially if such penetration was of a virginal partner".

Central to Dr Wee's defence during the trial was his erectile dysfunction, with his wife taking the stand to testify that her husband could not have raped the woman as he suffered from the condition and was "soft like noodle" when having sex with her in 2015.

THE RAPE CHARGE

The court found that it was "doubtful" whether Dr Wee would have attempted penile penetration as clinic assistants and other patients were waiting in the clinic at the time.

The sliding door leading to the examination room could not be locked, and the woman could easily have screamed for help.

"To find that Dr Wee had raped (the woman) in these audacious circumstances, he must have believed that he could get away with it because (the woman) would not even know that she was being raped and would remain completely silent throughout the ordeal," the court found. 

"But, this was an improbable scenario to begin with, and further, the prosecution never put this to Dr Wee or explored this line of inquiry at the trial."

COURT'S REASONS FOR OVERTURNING OTHER CHARGES

In overturning the conviction of the molest charge, the court said it had difficulty accepting the woman's testimony that she thought Dr Wee's actions on Nov 25, 2015, were part of a medical examination.

The woman testified that the examination lasted a "very long" time, that the doctor had stroked her and that she felt the doctor was "playing around" with her.

The court found it "incredible" that the woman could have thought this was part of a medical examination, and was troubled by the "significant delay of 36 days" between the alleged molestation and the reporting of the act.

In overturning the conviction on the digital penetration offence, the court found that the narrative relied on by the prosecution was that Dr Wee had raped the woman.

"The digital penetration offence rested on a version of the facts that was fundamentally incompatible with the case mounted by the prosecution and with the evidence of the complainant," said the court.

READ: Doctor accused of raping patient found guilty of lesser charge of sexual assault

To allow the conviction to stand would ignore that Dr Wee had said that the digital penetration had taken place in the context of a medical examination, the judges added.

"Further, it also ignores all the crucial safeguards we have highlighted ... such as ensuring that the accused person knows the case he must meet, ensuring there is sufficient evidence to call for the defence to be entered and ensuring that the prosecution meets its burden of proof," they said.

JUDGES FOCUS ON PROSECUTORS' ACTIONS

The prosecution did not lead any evidence of the digital penetration offence, and Dr Wee would have conducted his defence differently if he had been charged with this offence instead.

"For this reasons, we are satisfied that Dr Wee had been substantially prejudiced by his conviction on the digital penetration offence," said the Court of Appeal.

The judges said that the prosecution "owes a duty to the court and the public to ensure that only the guilty are convicted", and to disclose relevant material to assist the court in its "determination of the truth".

They pointed to the prosecution's delayed disclosure of some medical reports, which affected the way the defence was run. One of these reports conducted in March 2016 found that Dr Wee did not achieve a full erection.

"We reiterate that these disclosure obligations are there to ensure that the defence is apprised of all the relevant information before the trial such that it may develop a defence strategy that will be best suited to assist the court in arriving at the truth," said the judges.

"Prosecutors are more than advocates and solicitors," they added. 

"They are 'ministers of justice' assisting in the administration of justice. As a 'minister of justice', the duty of the prosecutor is to assist the court to arrive at the correct decision. It is neither the prosecutor's duty to secure a conviction at all costs nor to 'timorously discontinue proceedings the instant some weakness is found in their case'."

In a statement to CNA, Dr Wee's lawyers, Eugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen, Johannes Hadi and Syazana Yahya said: "We are happy that the hard work put into the case has paid off with an innocent man being acquitted by the court."

Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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