Ex-cop convicted of Kovan murders can appeal to apex court in bid for probe against defence lawyers

Iskandar Rahmat (right) has been behind bars since being nabbed in 2013 for the killings.
Iskandar Rahmat (right) has been behind bars since being nabbed in 2013 for the killings.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Former policeman Iskandar Rahmat, who is on death row for the high-profile Kovan double murder of 2013, will have a chance to argue before the Court of Appeal that his defence team should be investigated for misconduct.

A five-judge panel, ruling against the Law Society on Friday (Jan 8), said complainants who are pursuing disciplinary probes against lawyers have the right to appeal all the way to Singapore's highest court.

The court's decision overruled the legal position that was set in a 2011 case, which the Law Society had relied on - known as Top Ten Entertainment - in arguing that Iskandar had no right of appeal.

On Friday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said in a written decision: "In our judgment, on this point, Top Ten Entertainment was wrongly decided and there is in fact a right of appeal to this court against a decision made pursuant to Section 96 of the Legal Profession Act."

Iskandar was found guilty on two charges of murder and sentenced to death in 2015.

In a botched robbery attempt, he fatally stabbed a 67-year-old car workshop owner at the man's Hillside Drive house in Kovan on July 10, 2013.

He also stabbed the businessman's 42-year-old son who had arrived later at the crime scene, and ended up dragging the younger victim under his getaway car for nearly 1km.

During his trial, he was represented by a team of six lawyers who were appointed to defend him under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences.

Iskandar was represented by different counsel during his appeal in 2016 against his conviction and sentence, which was dismissed in 2017.

In 2018, Iskandar filed a complaint to the Law Society, alleging that the six-lawyer team had failed to comply with his instructions in conducting his defence during the trial.

A four-member inquiry committee, after speaking to Iskandar in prison and getting explanations from the lawyers, unanimously decided that no formal investigation was necessary.

In June 2019, Iskandar applied to the High Court seeking a review of the Law Society's decision to dismiss his complaint. He asked the court to order the Law Society to start the process for a disciplinary tribunal to be appointed to investigate his complaint.

High Court judge Valerie Thean dismissed his application in October 2019 and found that formal investigations were not warranted.

Iskandar then filed an appeal against Justice Thean's decision.

In March last year, the Law Society applied to strike out his appeal. Its application was dismissed on Friday.

The details of Iskandar's allegations were not before the court as it was deciding on the legal issue of jurisdiction. The merits of his case will be dealt with when the appeal proper is heard in due course.