Singapore lawyer, who was depressed over divorce, sentenced to 21 months' jail for taking meth

Mark Tan Teik Yu (second row, right, with head hidden) exiting the State Courts on October 12, 2020 while being shielded by family members and friends. — TODAY pic
Mark Tan Teik Yu (second row, right, with head hidden) exiting the State Courts on October 12, 2020 while being shielded by family members and friends. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 13 — A lawyer, who was once a partner in top law firms, was jailed a year and nine months yesterday for the consumption and possession of methamphetamine. 

Mark Tan Teik Yu, 42, pleaded guilty earlier this year to five drug-related charges. 

On March 17 in 2018, he was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint with several drug utensils and a packet of at least 1.65g of meth in his car. 

Authorities also found 10 slabs of Erimin-5 tablets, the street name for the hypnotic drug nimetazepam.

Tan admitted that he had taken meth, a Class A controlled drug, at someone’s place in Malaysia in order to feel alert and awake.

He also helped his friend Iman Hakiki Azhari buy a box of Erimin-5 tablets. 

Central Narcotics Bureau officers raided Tan’s home and found another packet containing at least 4.39g of meth in a drawer of his bedside table. 

Depression after marriage broke down

Yesterday, District Judge Jasvender Kaur said that Tan turned to drugs after he suffered from a major depressive disorder that was triggered by the breakdown of his marriage.

The judge said that while deterrence is the key sentencing principle for drug offences, the only exception is when an offender proves that he suffers from a psychiatric condition that is causally related to the offence. 

She told the court it was “uncontroverted” that Tan began suffering from recurrent episodes of major depressive disorder at the time when his marriage broke down in 2012.

He left his previous law firm and took a significant pay cut to join another firm and to spend more time with his wife at the time. 

Online searches showed that he was a partner at Allen & Gledhill in 2011 before becoming a partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson the next year. The Ministry of Law’s website stated that he is now the managing director of his own law firm.

After joining a new firm, Tan found out several months later that his wife was having an extramarital affair. He offered her a second chance but she rebuffed it, the judge said.

“He went into an emotional turmoil... aggravating by high levels of stress over his financial situation and divorce proceedings,” District Judge Kaur added.

Began drinking but turned to drugs

Tan first began drinking heavily but when this grew less helpful, he started taking meth because he found that it stabilised his volatile emotions and stress.

His divorce was finalised in 2015 and he left his job in September 2017 after being told to resign. 

His supervising partner then encouraged him to seek medical treatment after noticing that he regularly took medical leave and seemed “significantly affected” by the divorce.

After resigning, he met his current wife in late 2017 and stopped taking drugs, but relapsed in 2018 after finding out that his ex-wife had remarried.

He used meth to stop his “spiral of emotional turbulence” brought on by her betrayal, District Judge Kaur noted.

“His severe depression was the cause of his underlying impairment, which was never treated on his slippery slope to drug abuse,” she added.

Tan has since spent “many hours” in therapy, with psychiatrists and counsellors stating that he has abstained from taking drugs and expressed significant remorse. 

The odds of him relapsing are low, a counsellor at the National Addictions Management Centre said.

In terms of his offences, the judge also noted that his friend Iman was already an addict and there was no suggestion that Tan was corrupting him.

For each charge of possessing a Class A or Class C controlled drug, as well as for consuming meth, Tan could have been jailed up to 10 years or fined up to S$20,000, or both.

For possessing drug utensils, he could have been jailed up to three years or fined up to S$10,000 (RM30,571), or both.

In response to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson for the Law Society of Singapore said that it will study the case and consider the appropriate action to take if Tan breached the Professional Conduct Rules. — TODAY

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