First Singapore woman judge dies of cancer

Singapore's first female judge, Ms Jenny Lau Buong Bee, lost her fight against cancer yesterday. She was 80.

Ms Lau made history in 1966 when she became the first woman here to be appointed a district judge by the Legal Service Commission.

Before that, she had been a juvenile court magistrate and Crown Counsel, and had spent time in private practice.

Her youngest sister, lawyer May Oh, said: "My sister always loved the law but it was quite a difficult time then. It wasn't easy, especially when you're the first and everybody's eyes are on you but I think she did pretty well.

"I spoke to some of the older lawyers who knew her, they thought she was a very good judge. Very stern, firm but good," she added.

The eldest of seven sisters, Ms Lau's parents were a school inspector and teacher.

She was a law graduate of Lincoln's Inn in London and was called to the English Bar in 1957 and then, to the Singapore Bar a year later. She made Malayan legal history in 1960 when she became the first female magistrate in Malaya.

The legal pioneer later took a position as consultant with Ms Oh's law firm after she retired from the Bench, partly to spend more time with her two children, said Ms Oh, who declined to give her age.

Despite her illness towards the end of her life, Ms Lau had remained a "loving sister, wonderful mother and a wonderful grandmother", who would be terribly missed, said her sister. Ms Lau is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.

Her memorial service will be held today and tomorrow at 8pm at 9 Robin Walk. The funeral will take place on Wednesday.

charyong@sph.com.sg