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Judicial CP - October 2004

Corpun file 14255

The New Paper, Singapore, 11 October 2004

Can SDU & SDS become YES

Never mind that she's got a good job and degree, and he's a drop-out and ex-convict

By Dawn Chia


SHE'S attractive, well-spoken and educated. She has a second upper honours degree in business administration, and draws a six-figure annual salary as an IT quality consultant.

He is a school drop-out and an ex-convict, who has spent 10 of the last 17 years in prison for seven drug offences.

Ms Jackie Lim, 30, belonged to the group of single graduate women in Singapore who enjoys both looks and financial independence.

And she chose to marry Mr Jeremy Neo, 34.

When Cupid shot his arrow at the two lonely souls, there was no turning back.

Differences in paper qualifications, social backgrounds and personality traits became endearing qualities which they grew to love and accept.

The Neos' relationship bucks the belief currently espoused by government matchmaking outfits, the Social Development Unit (SDU) and the Social Development Service (SDS). The two agencies operate separately, each catering to members with similar educational qualifications - one for graduates and the other for non-graduates.


Wanting to re-evaluate what she wanted from life, Ms Lim had taken four months off from work.

She wasn't prepared for Mr Neo's entry into her life - it was as much a surprise to her as it was for him.

Mr Neo, who was just out of jail, had resolved to make a fresh start. He had dropped out of school at 14, mixed around with gang members and tried escaping with heroin.

During his seventh sentence - a 4-year jail term and three strokes of the cane - he decided to put his past behind him and complete his N- and O-levels in prison school.

He scored four A1s, a B3 and C5.

The softly-spoken man, who is now pursuing a diploma in biotechnology at a local polytechnic, said: 'I was initially apprehensive about approaching her. We were so different.

'She has a career, is confident and intelligent. I have nothing, no education nor job.' It wasn't easy for him to overcome his inherent shyness and feelings of inferiority, but from the start he was honest about his past.

Gradually, they got to talking during their breaks from classes and, barely four months after they met, they started discussing their future, and marriage.


Copyright 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 14434

The New Paper, Singapore, 31 October 2004

Ex-sex offender on campus

No fear, some favour

By Tay Shi'an


HE has above-average grades. He is articulate. And he is accepted as one of the guys, mixing freely with the girls on campus.

Nothing unusual, you'd think, for a university undergrad - except that Jeffrey is a former sex offender.

Some of his college mates know this. Some lecturers are aware of his past.

But one college girl who heard of his conviction for a sex offence said they haven't allowed his past to colour their friendship.

Jasmine (not her real name), 23, who is Jeffrey's National University of Singapore schoolmate and friend, said: 'He knows he made a mistake, he acknowledges and admits it, and he's been punished for what he has done. Through his actions, you can also see that he's made very positive and proactive changes not to be the person he was before.'

Jeffrey (not his real name), 23, seems like a typical NUS undergraduate.

But while his peers often complain about essays and exams, he is just grateful for another chance to complete his education.

Jeffrey spent about a year in jail and was given three strokes of the cane after committing a sex offence a few years ago while studying in NUS. He wouldn't go into detail about the crime.


But instead of expelling him, which was what he had expected, NUS let him take about a year's leave of absence to serve his sentence.

He returned to school last year, and was allowed to continue where he left off, with his modular credits intact.

Jeffrey is one of scores of people in the last few years who have been given a chance by the local universities to pursue their degrees, despite having a criminal record.

The New Paper on Sunday met Jeffrey last Wednesday near the NUS Central Library.

With his purple checked shirt, blue jeans and spectacles, he looked like a typical undergrad.

He admitted that when he surrendered himself to the police three years ago, his education was not one of his main concerns.

'I was a first-timer, so I had a lot of things to think about and handle, like who to tell, and how my family would feel,' he said.

It was Jeffrey's lecturers and lawyer who told him that he might be able to return to NUS.

'I was very surprised. It was a load off my mind, so I could focus on other issues,' he said.

During his trial, Jeffrey was diagnosed as a sex addict.


He said his addiction escalated during his national service.

He would spend about three hours each day surfing for pornography on the Internet. He also masturbated frequently.

'I was thinking of it day in, day out. I found myself planning, looking for opportunities, when I would be alone, how to erase my tracks,' he said.

'I reached a stage where I lost control, and committed a crime.'

Jeffrey was placed in a medium-security prison, where he learned to control his addiction through weekly counselling.

'I went through all these cravings, which made me very uncomfortable,' he said.

He was released last year, and his focus returned to getting back to school.

To his surprise, he received a lot of support from friends, lecturers and counsellors, in the form of recommendation letters.

One lecturer, who was also the assistant dean in Jeffrey's faculty, helped him to compile all the letters and his medical report into a case file. She added her own endorsement, together with the relevant Dean's, and submitted it to NUS.

The lecturer, who asked not to be named, said: 'Since he had already served his sentence and paid the price for his actions, it didn't seem right to exclude him from educational experiences that would help him move beyond his offence and his punishment, and help him assimilate back into an ordinary, productive life.'

Two months later, Jeffrey got a letter from NUS saying he could resume his studies.


Copyright 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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