The courts were buzzing this week with news coming thick and fast from the Tey Tsun Hang sex- for- grades trial. Amidst the raunchy details of who did-what-to-who-and-where, some people might not have picked up on the fact that the Prosecution applied to impeach witness numero uno, Ms Darinne Ko.
Sound familiar? That might be because the Prosecution also applied to impeach Ms Cecelia Sue in the Ng Boon Gay trial last year. In case you have short- term memory loss or just returned from the moon, Mr Ng stood trial for allegedly receiving sexual favours from Ms Sue in exchange for furthering certain “business interests”.
What then, is this impeachment? Impeachment is a process by which a party seeks to discredit a witness by pointing out that there are material inconsistencies between a prior statement given by the witness and the evidence that the witness is giving in court. In certain cases, the party seeking to impeach also applies to have the court disregard the testimony in court in favour of the prior statements. In both Ms Sue and Ms Ko’s cases, the Prosecution applied to impeach its own witnesses. What this meant was that the Prosecution got to cross- examine and treat as hostile both Ms Sue and Ms Ko. More importantly, this was a tacit admission by the Prosecution that their own star witnesses were lying- either in court or in their police statements.
As good as our CPIB is, I very much doubt that there were CPIB investigators spying on Ms Ko or Ms Sue (on the couch or in the car- park respectively), when they were doing the nasty. In both cases, Prosecution’s entire case pretty- much rested on the evidence of the 2 alleged “victims”, both of whom have now been called liars.
There is, of course, the possibility that the 2 women were telling the truth during the statement- taking, only to change their minds at trial. Given that, by the time trial came along, the cat was so far out of the bag that it was halfway around the world in a non- extradition country, I cannot imagine any reason for the women to suddenly change their story in a manner which assisted the defence. This is especially so given the fact that these women must have known that they were at least liable for prosecution but, for reasons best known to the CPIB, were not in fact charged.
The other possibility is that these women’s statements were taken in circumstances under which, if I’m being polite, were less than conducive to obtaining accurate information. Under cross- examination by Tey, Ms Ko indicated that she had been approached by a senior CPIB investigator who informed her that her evidence was insufficient for the purposes of satisfying the elements of the charges which the CPIB intended to prefer against Tey, while at the same time dangling the immunity carrot. Mind you, there is no indication that Ms Ko is or was telling the truth, but certainly, this explanation seems, at the very least, a plausible reason for departing from the contents of her statement.
If (and this is a big IF) Ms Ko’s explanation is in fact true, this would also mean that the CPIB had already made up its mind to charge Tey, despite the fact that their star (read: only) witness had not given them the evidence they needed.
The fact is that the 2 high- profile sex- for- grades prosecutions have all relied almost exclusively on the basis of shaky evidence and even shakier witnesses. Serious questions need to be asked as to why huge amounts of resources are being spent on prosecutions built on the shifting sands of witnesses whose credibility the prosecution has sought to destroy. Even more questions need to be asked as to why statements taken by the CPIB are subsequently denounced by the purported makers in court. Somebody has, in my opinion, let the side down.
Disclosure: The author received less-than-stellar grades from his university- proof that he has never had sex with his lecturers.