Her depression made her gullible

WHEN student Evangeline Tay Su Ann, 22, was fined $2,000 on Feb 8 for paying someone to take the rap for her traffic offence, it raised eyebrows for two reasons.

One, she had appeared scantily clad in a men's magazine in 2007.

Two, she had escaped with a fine while her two accomplices had earlier been sent to jail.

Tay could have been jailed up to seven years for perverting the course of justice under section 204A of the Penal Code.

District Judge Jill Tan's written judgment, made available on Feb 22, shows that she had considered two psychiatrists' reports that Tay was suffering from depression at the time of her offence.

Apart from the reports, the judge also considered Tay's age at the time and the low likelihood of her re-offending.

In January 2008, Tay sought help from Kelvin Choo Yew Beng, 40, a senior police officer then, after she was caught driving without a licence.

Tay said that Choo told her she could "get someone to take the rap for her". He then arranged for her to bribe property agent Leung Man Kwan, 35, to take the blame for her offence.

The trio were later caught. Leung was jailed three months in November 2009 and Choo was jailed for six monthslast March.

The two psychiatrists diagnosed Tay as suffering from a major depressive episode when she committed her offence.

According to Tay's psychiatrist, Dr Ko Soo Meng, she had developed the depressive disorder in 2007.

She began treatment in 2009, but later stopped due to financial reasons. She started seeing him again last year.

Dr Ko's opinion was that Tay's depression caused her to take Choo's advice.

He stated in his report that "in a state of depression and desperation, and being ignorant and naive", Tay was "gullible and would likely succumb to any offer of assistance from onewhois supposed to uphold the law, and thus would probably know the law much better than her".

He stated that her state of depression "could have clouded her objectivity in her judgement".

Tay was also referred to Dr Jerome Goh at the Institute of Mental Health. He found her to have a major depressive disorder around and at the time of her offences.

He was also of the view that her depressive condition "might have impaired, though not completely eroded, her judgment in considering the consequences of her action" at that time.

While Judge Tan accepted that Tay's mental condition was a contributing factor to her eventual course of action, she said Tay's condition "was not a licence for her to abdicate responsibility for her own actions".

The judge said that while Tay may not have come up with the idea and may have "foolishly accepted Choo's advice in the belief that it was sound", it was "undeniably a course of action that benefited her".

The judge said Tay's error was in failing to appreciate what would happen if she was found out.

In sentencing, the judge considered Dr Ko's report that Tay was responding positively to treatment and that she did not display any sociopathic traits.

Dr Ko advised against a prison term as it could worsen Tay's depression.

The judge was of the view that Tay was at low risk of re-offending and had learnt her lesson, and "did not see the need to rehabilitate her".

She also did not think probation was necessary for Tay as she "had fended for herself for some five years andwas no longer an impressionable youth".

Probation would require Tay to attend sessions with a probation officer and perform community service, which would take time away from her studies as a business undergraduate at the Singapore Institute of Management.

Judge Tan felt probation would not benefit Tay as she noted that it was when Tay was "attempting to cope with the burdens of studying and working in 2007 that her various physical and psychiatric issues first surfaced".

She said that in Choo's case, he was a senior police officer and "would have been well aware of the consequences of his conduct", while Leung was "already a 33-year-old adult".

In contrast, Tay was only 19 at that time. After Tay's case was reported in the media on Feb 9, she topped Google Trends' search list for Singapore that afternoon when word spread that there were bikini pictures of her in the June 2007 issue of now-defunct men's magazine Maxim.

It was also reported that the former model was crowned Best Legs in 2007 under Maxim's top 100 girls list and was a "Suitcase Girl" in Channel 5's Deal or No Deal Season 2.

But Tay's mitigation painted a far less glamorous life. Her parents divorced when she was young and she grew up in the care of her physically abusive mother.

Chased out of flat

In 2005, her mother caused her to have a fractured cheekbone and chased her out of her flat.

Tay then lived in rented rooms or with boyfriends, working to support herself.

In 2007, she was studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and working part-time when she developed recurrent panic attacks as well as acute gastritis. She also attempted suicide.

In January 2008, Tay, then 19, was living at Duchess Crescent with her Bulgarian boyfriend, a business manager.

On Jan 22, when her boyfriend was overseas, Tay drove his car out to buy food at Upper Thomson Road as she was having gastric pains.

She beat a red light while driving without a licence and was caught on camera.

Her boyfriend was furious and she moved out of his place before he returned to Singapore.

Tay initially wanted to appeal against the fine, but paid in the end.