11 law graduates found to have cheated in Singapore Bar exams

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Hammer and Book
Judge gavel and books. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

UPDATE: The Straits Times reported on Tuesday (19 April) that the Attorney General is considering five more applications by candidates who had cheated in the 2020 Bar Exams. This means the number of trainee lawyers who cheated has grown from six to 11.

SINGAPORE — A total of 11 law graduates were found to have cheated while taking their Singapore Bar examinations.

The update by the Attorney-General given to the Straits Times on Tuesday (19 April) comes a day after Justice Choo Han Teck of the High Court had announced in his grounds of decision that six trainee lawyers have been asked to adjourn their applications for admission to the Bar, following the hearing of the applications by 26 law graduates for admission to the Bar last Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's Chambers told The Straits Times that the Attorney General (AG) is considering five other applications by candidates who had cheated in the 2020 Part B Examinations, bring the total number of trainee lawyers who had cheated to 11.

The spokesman added the AG felt such applicants would not be currently fit to be admitted as advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore, and that their misconduct had showed they did not embody the key qualities of honesty and integrity that every lawyer must possess.

The other applicants were admitted with no objections from the AG, the Law Society of Singapore (LSS), and the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE).

On Monday, Justice Choo said that the AG’s objection was that the original six applicants were “not fit and proper persons to be admitted to the Bar” as they had cheated in the Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations in 2020.

The AG was of the view that the applicants “lacked honesty and integrity”, and should not be admitted to the Bar, at least not for a while.

Five of the six applicants communicated with each other and shared answers in six of the papers through WhatsApp.

The remaining applicant colluded with another examinee and cheated in three of the papers. That other person was not subject to any complaint, according to Justice Choo. The applicant explained that her answers were the same as the other person as they studied together and shared study notes.

“The SILE rejected her explanation because her answers in the three papers were not just similar, but contained the same pattern and errors. They were not just similar but the same – warts and all,” Justice Choo said.

The SILE, however, gave her the benefit of the doubt in three other papers.

The five applicants were required to re-take the examinations of the six papers that they had cheated in.

The remaining applicant was required to re-take the entire Part B course because, unlike the other five who admitted their conduct as soon as the SILE began its inquiry, she denied any wrongdoing and protested her innocence. She filed an affidavit apologising for her conduct only on 11 April, two days before the admission hearing.

The applicants had all since passed the examinations required of them but “the odium of the misconduct remained”, for the time being, Justice Choo said.

“When so many applicants cheated in a professional qualifying examination in so many papers, including one for ‘Ethics and Professional Responsibility’, then something is wrong somewhere,” Justice Choo said. There were many questions raised as a result of the incident, according to Justice Choo.

“In a profession in which every member must be like Caesar’s wife – beyond reproach – dishonesty is a big problem.”

It is imperative to let Part B examinees and all law students know that the legal profession “values honesty among the highest virtues, and it is best to avoid stumbling on account of a lack of it from the outset”, Justice Choo said.

“Unlike advocates and solicitors in practice, there is no disciplinary process for the qualifying applicant to the Bar save the discretion of the court hearing the application for admission.”

Jeyendran Jeyapal, representing the AG, proposed that the five applicants adjourn their applications for six months, and the remaining applicant for 12 months. The lawyers for LSS and SILE, and the applicants agreed with Jeyendran.

Most of the applicants were trained in big and renowned firms, including two foreign offshore firms here, Justice Choo noted.

“I am also redacting the names of the applicants in the hope that they will not be prejudiced in the long run. I am also directing that this file be sealed. But second chances are for those who seize them. If ever they were to plead for a third, I wish them good luck,” said Justice Choo, who warned that future cases may not be redacted.

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