NUS sex-for-grades case (2012)

From Wiki.sg
Jump to: navigation, search

In April 2012, a National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor was arrested and placed under investigation for his alleged involvement in a sex-for-grades scandal.[1] The accused, Associate Professor Tey Tsun Hang, faced six corruption charges for corruptly obtaining gratification in the form of gifts and sex from his former student in return for giving her better grades.[2] This case was one of the three high-profile sex and corruption scandals that occurred in Singapore in 2012.

Personal details

The two individuals involved in the case were law professor, Tey Tsun Hang, and law student, Darrine Ko Wen Hui.

Tey Tsun Hang

Tey Tsun Hang graduated from King’s College, London, and St Hugh’s College, Oxford, with double first-class honours.[3] Tey is a Malaysian with a permanent residency (PR) status in Singapore where he lived with his Japanese wife and teenage daughter.[4] He joined NUS as an assistant professor in 1997 but left in 2000 to join the legal service as a Justice’s Law Clerk. Eventually, Tey held the position of a District Judge and presided over several notable cases before he returned to NUS as an associate professor.[5]

Darrine Ko Wen Hui

After graduating from Raffles Girls’ School and Raffles Institution (Junior College), Ko enrolled in NUS as a law student in 2009.[6][7] In 2010, she took Tey’s Equity and Trusts class which marked their first meeting and interaction.[8] According to the information on her LinkedIn, Ko did internship stints at the law firm Rajah and Tann in 2009 and 2010 and had landed a Summer Associate position at O’Melveny & Myers after her graduation in June 2012.[9]

Her LinkedIn and Facebook accounts were deleted after her identity was revealed in court.

First court appearance (July 2012)

Charges

On 27 July 2012, Tey was charged in court on six counts for allegedly showing favour to his student, Ko, between May 2010 and July 2010. The charges read that Tey supposedly gave Ko better grades in return for gifts and sex on two occasions.[10] Tey was represented by lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low, of Peter Low LLC.[11]


Following the charges, Tey was suspended from his active duties in NUS.[12] Additionally, Provost Tan Eng Chye of NUS sent out an email reminding faculty members and staff to follow the NUS Code of Conduct and to perform their duties honestly and in a “professional and conscientious” manner.[13]

Tey's statement

Tey chose to plead not guilty and made the following statement on the steps of the Subordinate Court:

“The charges and allegations against me are very serious. At stake is my liberty, integrity and livelihood. My reputation has been tarnished and my family suffers as a result. I am known to speak up, amongst other things, on the Singapore legal system. I write in good faith and with no ill intent. In a similar vein, I shall fearlessly defend myself against the charges, and vigorously. I have no illusion about the arduous journey ahead of me. I pray for a worthy trial - a trial that allows the truth to come to light, a trial that allows me to vindicate myself.”[14]

First trial (January 2013)

Tey pictured outside the Subordinate Courts on 14 January 2013. Photo credit to Kelvin Chng (TNP Photo).

The first trial commenced on 10 January 2013. It was presided by Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye. The prosecution had lined up 14 witnesses for its case, one of whom was Ko. Ko took the stand as a key witness to the case.[15]

Darrine Ko's statement[16]

Darrine Ko in January 2013. Photo credit to Wong Kwai Chow (ST Photo).

According to Ko, she first met Tey in his Equity and Trusts class. At first, the two had minimal interaction. In late March and early April, Tey appointed 10 students - including Ko - to help him with research for a publication. Ko began to communicate with Tey daily over e-mail or the phone. After the research stint, Tey took Ko out for lunch as a way to express his gratitude. Over lunch, Tey shared details of his career. Their three-and-a-half-hour conversation made Ko feel like they “seemed to have a connection”.


Their meetups turned frequent and on one occasion, Tey privately revealed Ko’s grades and class ranking before the results were officially released. Ko was not privy to such information as a student. On another occasion, Tey tearfully confided in Ko about how he was detained by the Internal Security Department. This particular confession made Ko feel "like (they) were friends". Ko began to develop feelings of “affection” for Tey and was under the impression that the feelings were mutual. Their twice-weekly lunches and Saturday dates continued even after Ko’s boyfriend found out about the affair.

Sexual encounters[17]

On 24 July 2010, a week before Ko was to fly to Duke University for an exchange programme, they met in Tey’s office. Both got emotional over her trip and started to kiss. Before long, they were having sex on his couch. That evening, she returned home and found blood on her underwear. She then texted Tey who only replied with “Sorry” an hour later. Ko did not reply to the text message.


Their second sexual encounter occurred four days later on 28 July 2010. After celebrating her birthday over a meal at the Chinese Box, a restaurant in the NUS Bukit Timah campus, Tey offered to send her home. The two made a detour to his office under the pretence that he wanted to collect something. Once there, Tey locked the door and they had sex again.

Pregnancy[18]

In September, Tey flew to the U.S. and stayed with Ko for a week at Duke University. During this trip, Ko revealed that she was pregnant with Tey’s child. Tey told her to get an abortion in the U.S. and made her pay for it on her own, claiming that he had no money to pay for it.

Challenges to CPIB interrogation

The defence argued that Tey had been coerced into confessing to his alleged offences. According to Low, Tey was diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder and Altered Mental Status after he was arrested. As such, Low argued that Tey was in a “fragile mental state throughout the interrogation sessions”.[19] If the statements were proven to have been made under duress, they would not be counted as evidence.[20]

Pre-trial conference[21]

On 24 September 2012, Tey’s defence counsel filed a criminal motion against Alexandra Hospital. Tey had been rushed to Alexandra Hospital within 12 hours of his arrest. He was then treated and diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder and Altered Mental Status. When Tey was interrogated, he had allegedly been on prescribed psychoactive drugs. To prove that “false confessions” were extracted during the interrogations, Low requested for the disclosure of the following:[22]

  • Tey’s hospitalisation record
  • Tey’s medical prescriptions
  • The identities of the nurses who attended to Tey

In response, Alexandra Hospital, represented by Kuah Boon Theng, claimed that it had already given a “very detailed report” which included such information. Kuah added that the hospital would “readily provide” clarifications if Tey’s counsel team required more information.[23] The defence counsel's requests directed towards Alexandra Hospital were successful.[24]

"Trial within a trial"

Throughout the trial, Tey cross-examined the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) officers to challenge the admissibility of his six statements made during the interrogation. Tey specifically challenged CPIB Chief Special Investigator Bay Chun How.[25]


Tey alleged that Bay was “eager to haul him back” to CPIB even though he was on medical leave after his hospitalisation at Alexandra Hospital. Tey had allegedly shown Bay his medication but was still forced to confess. He claimed that Bay threatened to place his wife under arrest if he refused to cooperate.[26]


According to Bay, he heard that Tey was vomiting in the interrogation room after his arrest. Upon further observation, Bay noted that Tey was “trying to vomit something into the bag but only had a few mouthfuls of saliva inside”. When the ambulance came, Tey allegedly insisted on being wheeled out despite being mobile. These actions cast doubts about Tey's supposed medical condition.[27]

Judge's ruling

Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye ruled that the statements Tey had given to CPIB officers would still be admitted as evidence.[28]

According to Tan, he was “unable to believe that Tey had made the statements involuntarily” given his extensive legal training and background. Additionally, Tan found Tey’s voluntary visits to CPIB “puzzling” especially when he claimed to be unwell and on medical leave. Tan also noted that if Tey had found the CPIB officer’s acts to be “heinous” he could have reported to the relevant authorities “but no such reports or complaints were made”.[29]

Second trial (April 2013)

The second trial resumed in April 2013.

"Mutually in love"

Tey pictured on 12 April 2013. Photo credit to Wong Kwai Chow (ST Photo).

Tey argued that his relationship with Ko was a “mutual romance” in his second trial. He informed the court that they would send each other poems - hers in English and his in Mandarin - as a declaration of their love for one another. Tey also claimed that he tried to reimburse Ko for the gifts and the dinner bill by writing her a cheque of S$2,500 but Ko refused to accept it.[30]

Regarding NUS’ Marking System and Ko’s Grades

To challenge the prosecution’s case that he had altered Ko’s grades, Tey argued that the NUS marking system was a “collaborative effort”. According to Tey, marks would firstly be entered by an administrative manager. Any changes to a student’s grades required the approval of the Vice-Dean. As an associate professor, he would not have access to alter Ko’s marks in the system.[31]


Tey brought up Ko’s grades in the classes taught by him. Before they started dating, Ko ranked in the 82nd percentile for his Equity and Trusts class. After they started going out, Ko’s ranking went down to the “60 something percentile” for his Personal Property Law class. Her grades for her directed research paper made her percentile drop even further "to the 32nd or 33rd percentile”. By showing the decline in her grades, Tey tried to argue that he did not obtain gratification in return for altering her grades.[32]

Tey's mental state

According to reports, Tey had a breakdown during one court session. He had appeared to “slip into a daze” while he was on the stand after lunch. Following the session, Tey was seen crying, breathing heavily and retching what appeared to be saliva into a plastic bag.[33]


On 23 April 2013, the presiding judge decided to adjourn his trial for two weeks while Tey underwent forensic psychiatric tests at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). The tests were to see if Tey was fit to stand trial. According to the medical reports, the doctors diagnosed the incident as an “acute hyperventilation episode” and that Tey had “dissociative amnesia”.[34]


On 6 May, the trial resumed after Tey was declared fit enough to testify. According to an IMH psychiatrist, Tey’s “severe memory deficiencies” were consistent with “individuals with severe brain damage, or organic disorders, chronic and severe psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia”. However, the results received some doubts from the court as Tey was not clinically diagnosed as such.[35]

Verdict (May 2013)

Tey on the day he was due to serve his sentence. Photo credit to Kevin Lim CP (ST Photo).

On 28 May 2013, Tey was convicted of all six counts of corruptly obtaining gratification in the form of gifts and sex from his former student, in return for giving her better grades. Following the verdict, NUS terminated Tey’s employment contract with immediate effect.[36][37]

Sentence

Tey Tsun Hang was sentenced to a jail term of five months and ordered to pay a penalty of S$514.80. This amount was derived from the balance of the dinner bill and the cost of the two CYC tailored shirts. Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye took into account that Tey had returned S$1,000 to Ko for the dinner and that the iPod touch and Montblanc pen was forfeited by the authorities.[38]


Tey started serving his sentence on 26 June 2013. It was reported that even as he was serving time, Tey instructed his lawyers to file appeals against his conviction and jail sentence.[39] In September, he was permitted to serve his jail term on home detention.[40] Tey was granted early release on 5 October 2013 for good behaviour.[41][42]

Acquittal (February 2014)

On 28 February 2014, Tey succeeded in his appeals against his conviction and sentence. He was acquitted and the fine he was ordered to pay was refunded. Justice Woo Bih Lih ruled that Ko did not have any intention of getting better grades. He also added that the trial judge, Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, had “erred in equating a “morally reprehensible act” with legal wrong”, thus setting aside all six charges against Tey.[43]

Judicial Review

Following his acquittal, Tey filed two judicial review applications against the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and NUS.[44][45] A judicial review is a procedure in which individuals are allowed to ask the court to evaluate the decisions of public bodies which had affected them.[46]


Firstly, Tey intended to take legal action against ICA for revoking his PR status and application. He hoped that his PR status would be reinstated along with his daughter's.[47] Secondly, he sought judicial review of NUS’s decision to fire him and wanted the High Court to overturn the university’s decision so that he could get his job back.[48]

Outcome of Judicial Review

The Attorney-General’s Chamber (AGC) opposed his motion against NUS. A spokesman from the AGC noted that Tey’s challenge “did not concern public law” and instead it “pertained to the employment contract between him and NUS”.[49]


With regards to the judicial review against ICA, High Court Judge Quentin Loh ruled that Tey’s bid is “an abuse of the court’s process”. Loh cited that Tey “had failed to exhaust all available remedies, including making an appeal to the relevant ministers before turning to the courts”. Hence, his bid to reinstate his PR status was rejected.[50]

References / Citations

  1. “NUS law professor alleged to be involved in sex-for-grades scandal”. Channel News Asia. July 25, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  2. “Law prof Tey Tsun Hang found guilty in sex-for-grades case”. Channel News Asia. May 28, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  3. Heng, Linette. “The man in the hot seat”. The New Paper. July 27, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  4. Heng, Linette. “At stake is my liberty, integrity, livelihood”. The New Paper. July 28, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. Heng, Linette. “The man in the hot seat”. The New Paper. July 27, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. Whang, Rennie. “Student. Friend. Lover”. The New Paper. January 11, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. Tan, Judith. “ ‘She is out on bail’: Lawyer”. The New Paper. July 31, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. “Sex-for-grades case takes a surprising turn”. The Straits Times. February 28, 2014. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  9. Tan, Judith. “ ‘She is out on bail’: Lawyer”. The New Paper. July 31, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  10. “NUS professor charged in sex-for-grades case”. Channel News Asia. July 27, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  11. Heng, Linette. “At stake is my liberty, integrity, livelihood”. The New Paper. July 28, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  12. Sin, Bryna. “Sex-for-grades case; Law prof charged with corruption”. The Straits Times. July 28, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  13. Sim, Bryna. “Sex-for-grades case; Keep relationships appropriate: NUS”. The Straits Times. August 2, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  14. Heng, Linette. “At stake is my liberty, integrity, livelihood”. The New Paper. July 28, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019.R etrieved from NewspaperSG.
  15. “I ‘liked’ NUS law professor ‘as a friend’ at that time: Ex-student”. Channel News Asia. January 10, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  16. Tham Yuen-C. “Sex-for-grades trial; Ex-student was ‘enamoured of professor’”. The Straits Times. January 11, 2013. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  17. Tham Yuen-C. “Sex-for-grades trial; Ex-student was ‘enamoured of professor’”. The Straits Times. January 11, 2013. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  18. Tham Yuen-C. “Sex-for-grades trial; Ex-student was ‘enamoured of professor’”. The Straits Times. January 11, 2013. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  19. “Sex-for-grades case: NUS professor “coerced into confession’ “. Channel News Asia. September 24, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  20. “NUS law prof challenges CPIB officer in sex-for-grades trial”. Channel News Asia. January 17, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  21. “Sex-for-grades case: NUS professor “coerced into confession’ “. Channel News Asia. September 24, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  22. “Sex-for-grades case: NUS professor “coerced into confession’ “. Channel News Asia. September 24, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  23. “Sex-for-grades case: NUS professor “coerced into confession’ “. Channel News Asia. September 24, 2012. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  24. Lee. Amanda. “Sex-for-grades trial postponed for 2 months; Judge also dismisses NUS Law Professor’s application to obtain further information”. Today. September 26, 2012. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  25. “NUS law prof challenges CPIB officer in sex-for-grades trial”. Channel News Asia. January 17, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  26. “NUS law prof challenges CPIB officer in sex-for-grades trial”. Channel News Asia. January 17, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  27. “NUS law prof challenges CPIB officer in sex-for-grades trial”. Channel News Asia. January 17, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  28. Singh Bryna and Walter Sim. “Sex-for-grades trial; Don’s confessions admitted as evidence”. The Straits Times. April 10, 2013. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  29. Singh Bryna and Walter Sim. “Sex-for-grades trial; Don’s confessions admitted as evidence”. The Straits Times. April 10, 2013. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  30. Huang, Claire. “Law prof in sex-for-grades trial says he was “in love” with former student”. Channel News Asia. April 15, 2013. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  31. Huang, Claire. “Law prof in sex-for-grades trial says he was “in love” with former student”. Channel News Asia. April 15, 2013. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  32. Huang, Claire. “Law prof in sex-for-grades trial says he was “in love” with former student”. Channel News Asia. April 15, 2013. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  33. Sim, Walter. “Sex-for-grades trial; hearing cut short after law prof appeared dazed”. The Straits Times. April 18, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  34. Sim, Walter. “Sex-for-grades trial; case adjourned for IMH to assess prof’s mental health”. The Straits Times. April 23, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  35. “Sex-for-grades trial resumes after law prof declared fit enough to testify”. Channel News Asia. May 6, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  36. “Law prof Tey Tsun Hang found guilty in sex-for-grades case”. Channel News Asia. May 28, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  37. Sim, Walter. ‘Ex-law don takes action against Govt to restore PR status”. The Straits Times. June 14, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  38. “5 month’s jail for sex-for-grades former law prof”. Channel News Asia. June 3, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  39. “Ex-law prof in sex-for-grades case begins serving sentence”. Channel News Asia. June 26, 2013. Accessed 20 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  40. “Sex-for-grades case takes a surprising turn”. The Straits Times. February 28, 2014. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  41. “Sex-for-grades case takes a surprising turn”. The Straits Times. February 28, 2014. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  42. Bryna Singh. “Sex-for-gradeas appeak; ex-law prof in Malaysia as hearing proceeds”. The Straits Times. October 17, 2013. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  43. Chia, Ashley. “Sex-for-grades case: Ex-NUS law prof Tey succeeds in appeal against conviction”. Today. February 28, 2014. Accessed 19 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.
  44. Sim, Walter. ‘Ex-law don takes action against Govt to restore PR status”. The Straits Times. June 14, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  45. Lum, Selina. “Court considers ex-don’s bid for review of sacking”. The Straits Times. November 4, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
  46. Lum, Selina. “Court considers ex-don’s bid for review of sacking”. The Straits Times. November 4, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  47. Sim, Walter. ‘Ex-law don takes action against Govt to restore PR status”. The Straits Times. June 14, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  48. Lum, Selina. “Court considers ex-don’s bid for review of sacking”. The Straits Times. November 4, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  49. Lum, Selina. “Court considers ex-don’s bid for review of sacking”. The Straits Times. November 4, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  50. “Ex-NUS lecturer Tey Tsun Hang fails in bid to get back PR status”. Channel News Asia. December 3, 2014. Accessed 23 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.