Acquittal of Rape and Outrage of Modesty Charges


2021

Medical Practitioner acquitted of rape and outrage of modesty charges

1. Introduction

A general practitioner, Dr Wee Teong Boo (“Dr Wee”) was charged with the molest (“OM”) by allegedly stroking the patient’s vagina with his fingers in November 2015, punishable under section 354(1) of the Penal Code, and rape by allegedly penetrating the patient’s vagina with his penis without the patient’s consent in December 2015, under section 376(2) of the Penal Code punishable under section 376(3) of the Penal Code. Both incidents took place at his medical clinic. Dr Wee denied committing both offences.

Following a trial conducted by his previous solicitors, Dr Wee was acquitted of rape, but found guilty of molest and sexual assault by digital penetration. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 10 years.

Dr Wee appealed against both his convictions and his sentence. The Prosecution appealed against the acquittal on the Rape Charge and the sentence meted out.

Eugene, Jing Yen, Syazana, and Johannes represented Dr Wee in the appeal to the Court of Appeal.

2. Background

On 25 November 2015, the day on which Dr Wee allegedly outraged the patient’s modesty, the patient consulted Dr Wee as she was experiencing gastric discomfort. During the consultation, Dr Wee palpated the patient’s lower abdominal area and then pressed on the “joint area” near the patient’s groin and remarked that there was a lump. Dr Wee then allegedly slid his right hand under the patient’s panties and started stroking her vagina with his right fingers in an up and down motion. He then asked the patient to sit up, and as she did so, he continued stroking the patient’s vagina with his right fingers.

Dr Wee claimed that it was the standard abdominal examination he would have performed on all his patients in these circumstances. Dr Wee prescribed some medication for phlegm and gastritis.

On 30 December 2015, the patient felt itch at her genital area and consulted Dr Wee. The patient scheduled an appointment for 11pm and two more patients were waiting to see Dr Wee after the patient.

During the consultation, the patient informed Dr Wee of her symptoms. Dr Wee directed the patient to the examination room. On the examination table, the patient felt “something horizontal” poke into her vagina and alleged that she was raped. Dr Wee denied raping the patient.

3. Court of Appeal’s decision

On 10 June 2020, the apex court comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Steven Chong and Belinda Ang affirmed the High Court Judge’s decision to acquit Dr Wee of the Rape Charge in Public Prosecutor v Wee Teong Boo [2020] 2 SLR 533.

The patient claimed that she had been raped while Dr Wee stood between her legs and was holding on to her legs throughout the incident. Dr Wee underwent three separate medical examinations on his erectile function. One of the doctors who gave evidence at the trial, Dr Peter Lim Huat Chye, explained that it would have entailed “great difficulty” for his penis to enter the vagina unaided. Further, there was ample reason to doubt the alleged penetration on the common ground that the patient was a virgin, not a willing partner, and did not aid the alleged penetration. The Court found it implausible that Dr Wee could have penetrated the patient’s vagina in the manner she described. The Court also agreed with the High Court Judge that it was doubtful that Dr Wee would have attempted penile penetration considering that the clinic assistants were present just outside and there were still few patients waiting to see Dr Wee for consultation at the material time.

The Court overturned the High Court Judge’s conviction of Dr Wee on the OM Charge. The Court found it difficult to accept the patient’s testimony that she thought Dr Wee’s alleged actions on 25 November 2015 were part of a medical examination. Also, the court was troubled by the significant delay of 36 days between the alleged molestation and it being reported.

The Court also overturned the High Court’s conviction of Dr Wee on the Digital Penetration Offence. It was held that this case did not fall within the ambit of section 139 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The version of facts for the Digital Penetration Offence was incompatible with the case mounted by the Prosecution and with the evidence of the patient. The Court was satisfied and accepted the Defence’s submissions that Dr Wee had been substantially prejudiced by his conviction on the Digital Penetration Offence.

The Court of Appeal expressed its disbelief at the complainant’s testimony, which was internally inconsistent and contradicted by several pieces of the objective evidence.

In the judgment, the Court of Appeal further expressed its displeasure at the manner in which the Prosecution had conducted its case at trial – in particular the Prosecution’s unjustified withholding of material evidence that would have shown at the outset that Dr Wee had difficulty sustaining an erection. This was clearly material to the allegation of rape, and the disclosure of this evidence fell squarely within the Prosecution’s Kadar obligations.

The Court of Appeal thereby overturned a 10-year imprisonment sentence meted out by the High Court and our client was entirely cleared of all the allegations against him.

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