Apex court hears appeals by prosecution and defence in case of doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patient

In February last year, the High Court cleared Wee Teong Boo of rape and instead convicted him of sexual assault by penetration.
In February last year, the High Court cleared Wee Teong Boo of rape and instead convicted him of sexual assault by penetration.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prosecutors argued in the Court of Appeal on Thursday (March 26) that general practitioner Wee Teong Boo should be convicted of raping a patient at his clinic, while the defence appealed for him to be completely cleared of all charges.

The apex court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Steven Chong and Justice Belinda Ang, will give its decision at a later date.

Wee, 69, was originally tried for molesting the woman, then 23, at a medical examination in 2015 and raping her at another visit one month later.

In February last year, following a high-profile trial, the High Court cleared him of rape and instead convicted him of sexual assault by penetration.

The amendment was based on Wee's admission that he had inserted his ungloved fingers into the patient in what he said was a pelvic examination.

He was sentenced to 10 years for this and the molestation charge.

At the appeal hearing on Thursday, the judges said several times that they struggled to understand the sequence of events given by Wee's accuser, even as they acknowledged that different people react differently in such situations.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Lit Cheng admitted that the case was "bizarre" but said the patient was a "simple-minded" young woman who had no previous sexual experience and trusted Wee as a doctor.

The patient said that she saw Wee on Nov 25, 2015 for gastric discomfort and he stroked her genital area while examining her on the bed. Despite feeling "weird", she thought it might be part of the medical examination.

More than a week later, she visited a polyclinic, where a doctor found lumps on her pelvic joints. She said this reassured her that there was a medical basis for Wee's actions.

She returned to see Wee on Dec 30 for frequent urination and a genital itch.

 
 
 
 

She said Wee removed her shorts and panties and stood between her legs. She said she heard the sound of a zipper, and then felt something "poke" her while Wee was moving and holding both her legs with his hands.

She said it was only when he pulled her into a semi-upright position that she realised he was raping her. After gesturing for him to stop, she said she went on "auto pilot" mode, including collecting her medicine.

Back home, she could not sleep and told her mother that Wee had "violated" her, without elaboration. When her mother asked if Wee was on top of her, she replied "no". Her mother then replied it would be a "50-50" case.

After making a police report for rape, she said it later dawned on her that she had been sexually assaulted during the Nov 25 visit.

On Thursday, Wee's lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, argued that the woman was not credible and had made up the molest allegation to buttress her rape claim.

He noted that she said she rested her foot on a photocopier during the alleged rape, but photographs showed there were plastic boxes between the bed and the photocopier. Seven clinic assistants also said the boxes have been there for years.

At the end of the session, CJ Menon said that if the apex court upholds the rape acquittal, Wee cannot be convicted of sexual assault either.

This was because the "central fact" of the sexual assault conviction was digital penetration, which was the opposite of the prosecution's case - that Wee had penetrated the woman with his penis.

"You disavowed the central fact that digital penetration took place. How can you seek to defend a conviction on that basis?" he said.