Last four of 11 Bar exam cheats withdraw applications to be admitted as lawyers

Each of the four gave an undertaking not to bring a fresh application for admission to the Bar. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The last four of 11 aspiring lawyers who cheated in the 2020 Bar exam were allowed on Friday (Aug 26) to withdraw their applications to be admitted to the Bar.

Each of the four gave an undertaking not to bring a fresh application for admission to the Bar for periods ranging from nine months to three years.

In determining the duration for each candidate, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon considered the circumstances of how they cheated, how quickly they came clean when confronted, and the extent to which they disclosed the cheating in their Bar admission applications.

Ms Joleen Ong Jia Yi, who instigated two other candidates to give her the answers for two papers, including one for ethics, is not to apply for admission for three years.

Mr Lim Zi Yi, who had given answers to Ms Ong for two papers, is not to apply for one year.

Ms Annabelle Au Jia En, who helped Ms Ong with one paper, is not to apply for nine months.

The three were in the same study group, and Ms Ong used their Discord chat to ask for help during the exam, which was held online in 2020.

Chief Justice Menon noted that Ms Ong asked for answers not once, but twice, and was not forthcoming after being found out.

On the other hand, Mr Lim and Ms Au immediately confessed during investigations.

The Singapore Institute of Legal Education (Sile) also deemed that the trio had cheated in a third paper, which the candidates denied.

Chief Justice Menon gave no weight to the third paper as there was no clear explanation for how Sile arrived at its conclusion.

The fourth candidate, Mr Sean Wong Wai Loong, is not to apply for admission for two years.

After submitting his answer script for one paper, he obtained the script of another candidate, copied her answer for a question he had missed out, and resubmitted his script.

Although Mr Wong quickly admitted his misconduct, he initially did not disclose this in his admission application out of fear that his legal life might come to an end.

All four also gave their word that when they bring a fresh application, they would have to satisfy any requirements by the Attorney-General, Law Society, Sile or the court as to their fitness for admission.

All 11 candidates who were caught cheating in the exam had to retake it, and subsequently passed.

The cheating became public in April, when High Court judge Choo Han Teck adjourned the admission applications of six candidates after the Attorney-General said they were not fit and proper persons to be admitted to the Bar.

Ms Monisha Devaraj, Mr Kushal Atul Shah, Mr Sreeraam Ravenderan, Mr Matthew Chow Jun Feng and Mr Lionel Wong Choong Yoong had their admission applications adjourned by six months.

The five, who shared answers in six papers via WhatsApp, admitted their misconduct as soon as Sile began its inquiry.

Ms Lynn Kuek Yi Ting, who was found to have colluded with another candidate, Mr Leon Tay Quan Li, had her admission application adjourned for a year.

Ms Kuek and Mr Tay denied cheating and explained that they had similar answers as they had studied together and shared notes.

But Sile, which reviewed the study notes, rejected the explanation.

Mr Tay then sought to withdraw his admission application, becoming the first of the 11 to do so.

In May, Chief Justice Menon allowed Mr Tay to withdraw his admission application, on the condition that he was not to bring a fresh application for at least five years.

Mr Tay had given a false account of what transpired when confronted and made selective disclosures in his admission application.

The Chief Justice also required Mr Tay to give his word that, when he brings a fresh application, he would have to satisfy any requirements by the Attorney-General, Law Society, Sile or the court as to his fitness for admission.

Earlier this month, six candidates - Ms Monisha, Mr Shah, Mr Sreeraam, Mr Chow, Mr Wong and Ms Kuek - appeared before Justice Choo again, this time to withdraw their admission applications.

Their lawyers said they had realised they needed more time to show that they were fit and proper to be admitted as lawyers and cited the Chief Justice's decision in Mr Tay's case.

Justice Choo granted permission to all six to withdraw their applications, saying that they were free to apply again, but did not impose specific conditions.

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