In a surprising turn of events, former National University of Singapore (NUS) lecturer Jeremy Fernando has managed to sidestep a potential prison sentence after his molestation charge was compounded, according to The Straits Times.
Compounding, in legal terms, involves reaching an agreement with the victim to compensate for the matter, often through a payment or an apology.
Under the law, only specific offences, such as causing hurt and outrage of modesty, can be compounded. Fernando’s case falls into this unique category.
The Granting of Discharge
On January 29, Fernando was granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal, shielding him from any future charges related to the same offence.
The discharge raises questions about the broader implications of compounding serious criminal charges and the limitations it imposes on further legal actions.
The Molestation Allegation
The alleged molestation involved Fernando kissing a woman’s lips at around 4 am on July 4, 2020. The victim’s identity and the location of the incident are protected by a gag order.
Both Fernando and his lawyer, Tan Jun Yin, have chosen to remain silent on their reactions to the case’s outcome, leaving the public curious about their perspective.
Repercussions and Earlier Incidents
Earlier reports indicate that NUS terminated Fernando’s employment following an allegation of inappropriate behavior. NUS not only severed ties with Fernando but also took the matter seriously enough to file a police report.
Fernando was previously fired by NUS for having an “intimate association’ with an undergraduate in a separate case, breaching the school’s code of conduct for staff.
NUS’s statement on 21 October 2020 reads:
“The University would like to provide clarifications on the matter concerning the dismissal of Dr Jeremy Fernando, a former non-residential teaching staff of the Tembusu College.
The University received two complaints alleging that Dr Jeremy Fernando had behaved inappropriately as a teaching staff. All allegations of misconduct are taken seriously, and the University stands firmly against all forms of inappropriate behaviour. On receiving the initial complaint, the University immediately placed the staff member on suspension and started investigations.
The University’s internal investigation established that Dr Fernando had an intimate association with an undergraduate. As this is a serious breach of the University’s Code of Conduct for Staff, the University acted swiftly to dismiss him.
Please refer to the timeline of events at the Annex, which describes the actions taken since the first complaint was reported to the University.
Standards expected of teaching staff
All NUS staff must adhere to the University’s Code of Conduct for Staff. There are strict guidelines pertaining to personal and professional conduct. For example, a staff must not engage in an intimate relationship with an undergraduate student, and a staff must ensure that they do not place themselves in a position of conflict of interest.
Our priority is to ensure a strong level of support and care for the two students involved. The two students were advised to report the allegations of misconduct to the police, in the company of an NUS staff.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, NUS has also separately made a police report.
Support for students
The NUS Victim Care Unit (VCU) has been providing care and support to the two students throughout the investigation process and will continue to do so.
Actions taken by Tembusu College
The College places the utmost priority on the safety and well-being of its students. When the incident was made known to the College, it immediately took action to protect the student community and worked with the VCU to facilitate a fair and prompt investigation that was conducted by the University.
As one of the students was formerly a student at Tembusu College, two of the College’s Directors have been providing direct additional support to her, and are continuing to be in touch with her.
The College Master has also engaged the different stakeholders on the matter through faceto-face interactions and discussions. In addition, the College took prompt action to ensure that there was no disruption to students’ learning following the dismissal of Dr Fernando.
A group of student leaders at Tembusu College have also started a ground-up initiative to form a Community Support Working Group to facilitate deeper dialogue and discussion within the College community.
Communication of dismissal
In this instance, the University has to balance interests of privacy and confidentiality, particularly for the victims involved. We recognise that we could have shared information about the dismissal with Tembusu staff and students in a more timely manner and we endeavour to do better.
In response to a request from the NUS Students’ Union, the University has published the Code of Conduct for Staff, which is currently available in the NUS staff intranet, in the public domain for ease of access by staff and students.
We will continue to remind our staff to uphold high standards of professional and personal conduct. We will also continue to work closely with our students, staff and stakeholders to build a safe, inclusive and respectful community.”