6 Law Grads Found Cheating In S’pore Bar Exam, Judge Delays Their Admission

Attorney-General Says 6 Lack Honesty & Integrity, Not Fit & Proper To Be Admitted To Bar

Lawyers are supposed to be professionals with the highest standards of integrity and trustworthiness.

Thus, when those who’re aspiring to the job are found to have been dishonest, it’s a serious matter indeed.

So when six law graduates cheated in their Bar Examinations, it’s only rightful that they bear the consequences.

Source: Unsplash. Photo for illustration purposes only

A judge has decided to delay their applications to the Bar.

6 out of 26 applications not admitted

The case came to light in a judgment by the High Court that was released on Monday (18 Apr).

Justice Choo Han Teck noted that 26 law graduates had applied for admission to the Bar, and these were heard by the court on 13 Apr.

However, only 20 of them were admitted.

The remaining six were subjected to an objection from the Attorney-General (AG).

AG says they’re not fit and proper

The AG was of the opinion that the six applicants were “not fit and proper persons” to be admitted to the Bar.

This reason was that they had cheated in Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations, held in 2020.

Ironically, one of the papers they cheated in was titled “Ethics and Professional Responsibility”.

In a scathing review, the AG said that the six “lacked honesty and integrity”.

Thus, they shouldn’t be admitted to the Bar, at least not now, the AG added.

The AG also questioned whether the six of them can swear an oath, upon admission to the Bar, declaring that they’ll “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”.

Answers shared via WhatsApp

The judgement also revealed some details on how the six trainee lawyers had carried out their cheating.

Five of them had shared exam answers with one another over WhatsApp.

Source: Unsplash

The sixth law graduate, a woman, had cheated in 3 exam papers by conspiring with another candidate, who hasn’t been subject to a complaint.

The cheating came to light when it was discovered that her answers contained the same pattern and errors as the other candidate, with the similarity described as “warts and all”.

They suffered some consequences

Before the High Court hearing, the six applicants had already suffered some consequences.

The five who shared answers over WhatsApp had to retake the six papers they’d cheated in.

This was because they’d owned up to the cheating when the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) started an inquiry.

However, the sixth law graduate initially denied cheating, saying the similarity in answers with the other candidate was due to them sharing study notes.

She only apologised in an affidavit on 11 Apr — two days before the admission hearing.

The woman was made to retake the entire Part B course.

All six of them have since passed all their exams.

AG proposes deferring applications

Despite suffering some consequences for their actions, “the odium of the misconduct” remains, said Justice Choo.

The AG thus proposed that the Bar applications of the six law graduates be deferred, so that they would have time to “reflect on the error of their ways”.

For the “WhatsApp five”, their applications would be adjourned for six months, while the sixth would have hers adjourned for 12 months.

This would be beneficial to them and the law profession, the AG said.

However, this wouldn’t be intended as a punishment, they added.

Justice Choo agreed with the proposal, noting that the applicants had also agreed to it, as well as SILE and the Law Society.

Even law students must be trustworthy: Judge

The judge also noted that there’s a disciplinary process for lawyers, but none for trainee lawyers who’ve not yet been admitted to the Bar.

Nevertheless, even law students must be trustworthy, he said, as every member of the law profession must be “beyond reproach”.

Thus, it’s necessary to warn them that the law profession “values honesty among the highest virtues”.

Harsh to end their professional careers: Judge

Justice Choo, however, did appear to have some mercy for the six law graduates, as he was of the opinion that,

It would also be harsh to have one’s professional career ended before it has even begun.

To prevent their job prospects being affected in future, he redacted – i.e. removed – the names of the six applicants.

He also directed that the file on the case be sealed.

By doing this, he said, he might prevent the wrongdoing from being repeated, while not “breaking young backs in the process”.

Is there a culture of cheating?

The judge did question why so many applicants had cheated, saying incredulously,

Something is wrong somewhere.

He asked whether there’s a “culture of cheating” in their education, pointing out that they’d learnt “poorly” since the course they cheated in was titled “Ethics and Professional Responsibility”.

He also questioned the character of those who cheat, adding,

When a person resorts to cheating in an examination, it also reveals a lack of diligence, and a propensity to take shortcuts — neither of which are sound professional qualities.

Applicants trained in big firms

Though the six law graduates had cheated in their exams, they still apparently had managed to progress in their careers.

The judgement noted that most of them were trained in big and renowned firms.

Two of these firms were foreign offshore firms here.

Additionally, five of the six applicants are currently working as legal executives.

Time for them to ponder on their actions

Owing to the importance of the rule of law in Singapore, it’s essential for those in the law profession to be whiter than white.

Kudos to the AG, then, for bringing up the cheating case in court.

Hopefully, the six will use the time to ponder upon their actions and avoid making such mistakes in future.

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