S'pore Law Society raps Canadian lawyers

Letter expresses concern group trying to influence M. Ravi's disciplinary hearing

The Law Society has criticised a Canadian lawyers' group for trying to influence a pending disciplinary matter involving human rights activist lawyer M. Ravi.

In a strongly worded letter sent yesterday to the Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), the society also expressed concern the group had gained access to confidential data about Mr Ravi's medical condition and disciplinary charges.

"We consider it highly inappropriate for you to... intervene in this matter, especially in view of the fact that you do not appear to be in possession of all the facts and have given a false and misleading impression on various matters," wrote Law Society president Thio Shen Yi.

The LRWC, a group of Canadian lawyers promoting human rights and the rule of law, had posted a letter on its website earlier this month, urging the society to drop disciplinary charges against Mr Ravi and support his application to renew his practising certificate.

The group disclosed that he faced four misconduct charges before a disciplinary tribunal in relation to incidents over four days in February. It claimed that a medical report by psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow had indicated Mr Ravi was suffering from a bipolar disorder and had experienced a "hypomanic episode" at the time, which explained his behaviour.

Among other things, it cited a letter attributed to Dr Winslow which claimed Mr Ravi's condition had stabilised and both were working towards avoiding a relapse.

In the society's response, Senior Counsel Thio said: "You are essentially asking the Law Society to intervene in disciplinary proceedings involving Mr Ravi that have been convened in full compliance with our laws. This is not only highly inappropriate, but appears to be based on a lack of understanding of our statutory laws."

He added that disciplinary tribunals are independent of the Law Society, which was in "no position" to direct them on how they should deal with matters before them.

He also said LRWC's various references to Mr Ravi's medical condition and the confidential reports issued by his doctor which were published on the website were a "serious breach" of Mr Ravi's medical confidentiality and Singapore's Personal Data Protection laws.

Noting there was no indication that either man had consented to the publication of the LRWC letter, Mr Thio asked the group to clarify the circumstances in which they had obtained the confidential information, and if consent had indeed been given.

He added it was unclear if LRWC's assurance that Mr Ravi's behaviour was not likely to recur had been provided by the group or a qualified medical practitioner who had examined and evaluated him. "Please identify who you are referring to, as we are not aware that any qualified medical practitioner has provided such 'assurance'," said Mr Thio.

A second letter by the LRWC, similar in content to the letter addressed to the Law Society, was sent last week to the Disciplinary Tribunal. Both letters were signed by LRWC executive director Gail Davidson and lawyer Kimberley Hawkins. Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, who is defending Mr Ravi at the tribunal hearing later this week, said the main issue will "be his mental condition at that time".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore Law Society raps Canadian lawyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe