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Court quashes gag order in case of man who killed child

Court quashes gag order in case of man who killed child

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 17 Nov 2020
Author: Selina Lum

Victim would not have been further harmed by the disclosure of her identity, prosecution says.

A gag order that was wrongly imposed in June by a magistrate in the case of a man who killed his two-year-old daughter - a year after their names had been published in the media - was quashed by the High Court yesterday.

The prosecution, in asking for the error to be corrected, said there was public interest in identifying the offender, Johnboy John Teo.

Conversely, there was no public interest in suppressing the identity of the victim, Ashley Clare, who is dead.

"The public has a continuing and unsatiated interest in knowing the outcome of this case," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Andre Chong in written submissions.

Teo, through his lawyer, Mr John Tan, told the court that he has no objections.

The 36-year-old former IT systems specialist is currently serving a six-year jail term after he pleaded guilty on July 29 to a reduced charge of culpable homicide.

Teo, who was suffering from major depressive disorder, suffocated Ashley on June 16 last year in his matrimonial flat in Sengkang.

He wanted to take his daughter along with him after he tried unsuccessfully to end his own life by slashing and stabbing his neck.

Teo was then going through divorce proceedings from his wife, Ms Eileen Cheok, who had moved out of the flat with their daughter. An interim judgment of divorce was made on June 12 last year.

On June 15 that year, a Saturday, both parents took the girl to a parent-teacher meeting at her pre-school.

When the girl began crying as Ms Cheok was about to leave, Teo felt that he did not have a place in Ashley's heart.

Teo then spotted a man waiting by a Mercedes-Benz, and believed that the man was his former wife's boyfriend.

Over the weekend, Teo and Ashley spent time together.

On Sunday evening, Ashley fell asleep in the flat as Teo prepared to hand her over to her mother as part of her care arrangement. As he watched her, he replayed the events of the previous day in his mind.

Sitting next to his daughter, he stabbed and slashed his neck with knives from his kitchen, then decided to kill her as he did not want to lose her in death.

He then stabbed his neck again before losing consciousness.

Teo and Ashley were found at about 11.30pm after Ms Cheok called the police when Teo did not pick up the phone.

When Teo was charged with murder on June 18 last year, his and Ashley's names were published by the media. The charge was amended to culpable homicide on June 10 this year.

At the State Courts on June 15, a prosecuting officer applied for a gag order on their names, even though there were no directions from the Attorney-General's Chambers or the police to do so.

Yesterday, the prosecution said the granting of the gag order was "palpably wrong" as there were no countervailing considerations - such as protecting child victims or victims of sexual offences - which justified a detraction from the principle of open justice.

Open justice is a legal principle which means an accused person is publicly tried and the reporting of ongoing proceedings is allowed.

In this case, the victim would not have been further harmed by the disclosure of her identity.

"Both retribution and deterrence can only be given their full weight if (Teo) is identified and therefore publicly held responsible for the crime that he has committed. Justice must be seen, to be done," said the prosecution.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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