Disciplinary Tribunal Reports
Pursuant to section 93(5) of the Legal Profession Act, the Council of the Law Society is required to publish the findings and determination of the Disciplinary Tribunal in the Singapore Law Gazette or in such other media as the Council may determine to adequately inform the public of the same.
This summary is published pursuant to the requirement of section 93(5) of the Legal Profession Act.
In the Matter of Ong Lian-Yi Gregory (Respondent), Advocate & Solicitor
These proceedings arose out of a complaint made against the Respondent by one Ms Scarlett Merida Xi Wei Yuan (the Complainant).
On or around 27 October 2015, the Complainant was served with a statutory demand for a sum of S$970,547.26 (Statutory Demand) allegedly due to one Ang Boon Kim t/a ABK Leasing (ABKL) under a loan agreement.
The Complainant wished to dispute the alleged debt, and met the Respondent on 28 October 2015 and 29 October 2015 respectively to hand him relevant documents and pay a deposit of S$7,000.00 with instructions to file an application to set aside the Statutory Demand (Setting Aside Application).
From 1 November 2015 to 4 December 2015, the Complainant and the Respondent exchanged various e-mails and WhatsApp messages wherein the Respondent had provided assurances to the Complainant that there should be no issues with her Setting Aside Application.
The Complainant was made a bankrupt on 24 December 2015 and the Complainant terminated the Respondent’s engagement on 18 January 2016. The Respondent returned the deposit of $7,000.00 to the Complainant on 19 January 2016.
The bankruptcy order annulled on 27 August 2018 after an application by the Complainant’s new lawyers.
The Chief Justice empanelled a Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) presided by Mr Giam Chin Toon SC and Mr Teo Weng Kie as DT member to investigate the complaint.
Three charges (and its alternatives) were preferred against the Respondent:
For grossly improper conduct or practice as an advocate and solicitor under section 83(2)(b) of the Legal Profession Act (Chapter 161) (LPA) in that the Respondent had failed to act promptly and diligently on the instructions of the client to set aside the Statutory Demand and/or to apply for an extension of time of the said deadline, in breach of Rule 5(2)(c) of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015 (Rules).
For grossly improper conduct or practice as an advocate and solicitor under section 83(2)(b) of the LPA in that the Respondent failed to keep his client reasonably informed of the progress of the application to set aside the Statutory Demand and/or the application to extend the time to set aside the Statutory Demand, in breach of Rule 5(2)(c) of the Rules.
For grossly improper conduct or practice as an advocate and solicitor under section 83(2)(b) of the LPA in that the Respondent failed to use all legal means to advance the client’s interests to the extent that he may reasonably be expected to do so, and failed to take the necessary steps to apply to set aside the Statutory Demand and/or to apply for an extension of time of the said deadline, in breach of Rule 5(2)(c) read with Rule 5(2)(j) of the Rules.
An alternative charge premised on section 83(2)(h) was preferred for each principal charge.
At the hearing, only the Alternative First Charge and Alternative Second Charge were proceeded with (Proceeded Charges), and the remaining charges withdrawn.
Findings and Determination of the DT, Council’s Sanctions
The DT found that the Proceeded Charges were made out.
The DT found that the Respondent was at all times fully aware of the deadline for the Setting Aside Application, but on the evidence, he had not shown any sign of concern or urgency even though time was fast running out. The Respondent’s conduct throughout the engagement was lackadaisical.
The DT was satisfied that the Respondent’s conduct was grave enough to amount to misconduct unbefitting of an advocate and solicitor.
In arriving at the recommended sanction, the DT considered some mitigating factors such as the Respondent not having gained financially from the matter, no prior antecedents, and there was no form of dishonesty and/or untruthfulness in the matter. In balancing this, the DT was also cognisant that the Respondent’s actions had caused suffering and inconvenience to the Complainant as she was adjudged a bankrupt.
The DT found that no cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action existed under section 83 of the LPA, but the Respondent should be ordered to pay a financial penalty of $5,000.00 with costs of $2,500.00 to be paid to the Law Society.
Council adopted the findings and recommendations of the DT, including but not limited to the finding that the Respondent’s actions had caused suffering and inconvenience to the Complainant as she was adjudged a bankrupt, and the Respondent was ordered to pay a financial penalty of $5,000.00. The Respondent was to pay the Law Society’s costs of $2,500.00 also.
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