Singapore's Attorney-General (AG) has objected to the admission of six law graduates to the Bar after they were found to have cheated in what is known as Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations.
According to a High Court judgment by Justice Choo Han Teck, the majority of these six graduates were trained in "big and renowned" firms, including two foreign offshore firms here.
Five of them are also currently working as legal executives.
In its objection, the AG said the six graduates were not fit and proper for admission, in light of their cheating.
It is also questionable as to whether these graduates can currently swear the oath on admission which requires them to declare that they will "truly and honestly conduct [themselves] in the practice of an advocate and solicitor according to the best of [their] knowledge and ability and according to law", as they lack honesty and integrity, the AG added.
How did they cheat?
The judgment further revealed that the examinations were held in 2020.
Five of the six graduates had communicated with each other and shared answers in six of the papers through WhatsApp.
They were required to re-take the examinations of the six papers they had cheated on.
As for the sixth graduate, she had colluded with another examinee and cheated in three of her papers.
Choo added that as far as he knew, this examinee whom she had collaborated with had not been subjected to any complaint.
In addition, the sixth graduate had explained that her answers were the same as the other examinee as they had studied together and shared study notes.
This explanation was rejected by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) as her answers were not just similar, but contained the same pattern and errors — "warts and all".
However, the SILE also gave her the benefit of doubt in three other papers.
Sixth graduate required to re-take entire Part B course
The sixth graduate was subsequently required to re-take the entire Part B course, as unlike the other five who admitted their conduct as soon as the SILE began its inquiry, she had denied any wrongdoing and protested her innocence.
Choo also noted that she filed an affidavit apologising for her conduct only on April 11, 2022, two days before the admission hearing on Apr. 13.
A total of 26 applications were fixed for this date.
With the exception of the six graduates in question, the other 20 were admitted to the Bar with no objections from the AG, the SILE and the Law Society of Singapore.
All six graduates have since passed all of the examinations required of them.
Applications of the six graduates adjourned for 6-12 months
Choo highlighted, however, that the "odium" of the misconduct has remained, for the time being.
He also pointed out that one of the papers the graduates had cheated on included "Ethics and Professional Responsibility".
Such actions raise the question of whether the mode of present-day examinations has made it more conducive for cheating, he said.
Choo further noted that unlike advocates and solicitors in practice, there is no disciplinary process for qualifying graduates to the Bar save the discretion of the court hearing the application for admission.
The lawyer representing the AG, Jeyendran Jeyapal, has proposed that the five graduates who had shared answers through WhatsApp have their applications adjourned for six months, while the sixth be subjected to 12 months.
In his submissions, Jeyendran explained that this would provide more time for the graduates to "reflect on the error of their ways."
The legal representation for both the LSS and the SILE, along with the students themselves have agreed with this proposal.
Choo said he was of the view that Jeyendran's proposal was "fair" and the appears as the most viable in the circumstances.
He also said he agreed with Jeyendran's submission that this proposal was not intended as a punishment, as this was not a disciplinary proceeding.
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Top photo by Matthias Ang