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High Court Judge calls out psychiatrist for letting ‘personal sympathies’ influence him, dismisses woman’s appeal

Justice See Kee Oon called out Dr John Bosco Lee for what he termed as a "cavalier" attitude towards the truth, causing his assessment of Hannah Ho Mei Xia to be set aside

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Singapore—The appeal of a woman jailed for assaulting police officers was dismissed by a High Court judge on September 10, Tuesday, largely due to the judge’s doubt of the psychiatrist assessment of her.

Justice See Kee Oon called out Dr John Bosco Lee for what he termed as a “cavalier” attitude towards the truth, causing his assessment of Hannah Ho Mei Xia to be set aside.

In 2017, Ms Ho, then aged 20, pleaded guilty to causing hurt to an officer by biting him on the shoulder, behaving in a disorderly manner and hurling vulgarities at a police officer. 

She was sentenced to 21 weeks in jail, but later filed an appeal.

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Justice See clarified that he dismissed Ms Ho’s appeal because he was unconvinced that her condition, persistent depressive disorder (PDD), had contributed to or caused her to commit the offences.

Furthermore, he pointed out that “there was ample reason to doubt Dr John Bosco Lee’s neutrality and independence, as well as the cogency of his conclusions”.

Additionally, Judge See said the fact that Dr Lee consciously withheld additional relevant information about Ms Ho in his psychiatric report is something that the judge found “troubling.”

“Regrettably, Dr Lee had allowed his personal sympathies for the appellant to unduly influence the manner in which he had written the report.”

He said that the psychiatrist also went past his remit as an expert in that he called for the High Court to consider Ms Ho’s case with “great compassion”.

Justice See also said that caution must be taken in considering Dr Lee’s evidence,”Dr Lee was a partisan witness who sought to confirm his own bias, whose evidence ought to be viewed with great circumspection.”

Ms Ho’s offenses were committed after a dispute at a club in the early morning hours of July 3, 2016, outside St James Power Station.

She punched one policeman when he tried to put handcuffs on her, and kicked and bit another officer who attempted to arrest her. She also “rained a torrent of abusive words” and kicked another police officer on the ride to the police station.

Two months prior to her arrest, Ms Ho received a S$1,500 fine due to disorderly behaviour against the police.

Lim Kia Tong, who is her appeal lawyer, claimed that the sentences given her were erroneous in principle and said that she should be given probation or other community-based options.

A vital part of Ms Ho’s appeal was the diagnosis of PPD, which two psychiatrists had diagnosed her with. Mr Lim said that there was a link between her diagnosis and her actions.

But according to Derrick Yeo, a psychiatrist with the Institute of Mental Health, there was no contributory link, and that she had the “cognitive and volitional capacity to control her behaviour at the material time”.

Justice See acknowledged Dr Yeo’s assessment that Ms Ho’s PPD was mild. He also said that the evidence Dr Lee presented was “speculative and at odds with the objective evidence”.

The judge said, ”Taken together with my finding that PDD does not generally result in impulsivity or aggression, I concluded that Dr Yeo’s careful and granular analysis of the material events was more persuasive.

I therefore found that there was no contributory link between (Ho)’s PDD and the offences.” -/TISG

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