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Sexual Misconduct Cases Reported to the Police by NUS


24 October 2020

Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code

1. Legal Obligation to file a Police report

in the wake of the recent allegations of sexual misconduct made by the two National University of Singapore (“NUS”) students against the ex-Tembusu College don, NUS said that it was legally obliged to lodge a police report. An official statement dated 21 October released by the NUS revealed that both students decided not to report the matter to the police.

The sequence of events extracted from the official statement is reproduced below:

Month Event
August 2020
27 Aug, Thu
  • Tembusu College received a complaint from a student against Dr Jeremy Fernando
31 Aug, Mon
  • Dr Fernando was suspended from duty and prohibited from contacting any student or staff of NUS, or attending his workplace other than for the purpose of assisting in the University’s investigations.
  • No Contact Order was issued to him to prohibit him from contacting the first complainant in person or through any other means, whether on or off campus.
  • Student was interviewed on her complaint. Victim Care Unit (VCU) Care Officer explored with the student the option of making a police report and assured her of continued support by VCU through the process if she chooses to do so, including accompanying her to the police station. The student decided not to report the matter to the police.
September 2020
1 Sep, Tue
  • Dr Fernando was interviewed by the University on first complaint.
5 Sep, Sat
  • University completed its internal investigation of the first complaint.
7 Sep, Mon
  • University received a second complaint from a student against Dr Jeremy Fernando. VCU Care Officer Care Officer explored with the student the option of making a police report and assured her of continued support by VCU through the process if she chooses to do so, including accompanying her to the police station. Director from Tembusu College also provided the same advice. The student decided not to report the matter to the police.
9 Sep, Wed
  • Second student was interviewed on her complaint.
14 Sep, Mon
  • No Contact Order was issued to Dr Fernando following the second complaint, to prohibit him from contacting the second complainant in person or through any other means, whether on or off campus.
21 Sep, Mon
  • University completed its internal investigation of the second complaint.
  • Dr Fernando was informed of the alleged misconduct and was given 7 working days to respond with additional information/mitigating factors.
30 Sep, Wed
  • Dr Fernando responded to the University.
October 2020
7 Oct, Wed
  • Dismissal was conveyed to Dr Fernando following internal investigations on his conduct.
  • On the same day, the two students were informed of the outcome of their complaints, in separate sessions. VCU Care Officer explored with the students the option of making a police report and assured them of continued support by VCU through the process if they choose to do so, including accompanying them to the police station. The students decided not to report the matter to the police.
  • Tembusu College informed academic staff about the departure of Dr Fernando.
18 Oct, Sun
  • Tembusu College sent email to all staff and all students to inform them about the dismissal of Dr Fernando.
  • Tembusu College continues face-to-face engagement with students, student leaders and staff in small groups.
19 Oct, Mon
  • VCU Care Officer contacted the students who had filed the complaints to check on their well-being.
  • Tembusu College continues face-to-face engagement with students, student leaders and staff in small groups.
Ongoing
  • Tembusu College will continue to engage students to address their concerns. The students who filed the complaints are being supported by the VCU Care Officer. Tembusu College Directors will also continue to support the student under their care.

2. AWARE questioned why NUS lodged the police report despite victims’ unwillingness

The Association of Women for Action and Research (“AWARE”) issued a statement on the NUS Tembusu college don case and mandatory reporting of sexual assault on Facebook, raised the question if the NUS had lodged a police report because of Section 424 of the CPC.

Section 424 of the CPC states that anyone who is aware that a person has committed, or intends to commit, criminal offences listed under the Penal Code (including Sections 161, 162, 163, 164, 170, 171, 211, 212, 216, 216A, 226, 270, 281, 285, 286, 382, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 399, 400, 401, 402, 427, 435, 436, 437, 438, 440, 442, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 459, 460, 489A, 489B, 489C, 489D and 506), must file a police report in the absence of reasonable excuse.

Professor Tommy Koh, Rector of Tembusu College told the media that there are cases where the university could delay such a report, such as if it is assessed that the victims may harm themselves or that reporting the case will seriously harm the mental health of the complainant.

Associate Professor Leong Ching said that NUS was bound by Section 424 of the CPC, and the two students were informed immediately after the police report was filed.

3. Lawyers’ views as to whether NUS was obliged to file a police report

Responding to TODAYOnline queries, Chooi Jing Yen said that:

Section 424 would not apply if the person proposing to make a report had no personal knowledge of whether an offence had been committed.

Usually, it would be the complainant or victim in question who would have this personal knowledge. Someone who is told about the events after the fact would not.

Arguably, the organisation would also be able to rely on this fact as a reasonable excuse for not making a police report.

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