Law Ministry resolves matter with Singapore legal group over links to English barristers' chambers

Mr V. K. Rajah retired as the Attorney-General earlier this year.
Mr V. K. Rajah retired as the Attorney-General earlier this year.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Law Ministry has accepted the explanation from a Singapore legal group with former Attorney-General V. K. Rajah among its practitioners over its links with an English barristers' chambers.

In a statement on Friday (Nov 25), the ministry said the matter has been resolved after the Essex Court Chambers Duxton (Singapore Group Practice) outlined the steps taken to correct misperceptions that it was part of the Essex Court Chambers (ECC) in London.

"Even though members of Essex Court Duxton are also members of ECC, Essex Court Duxton was not 'set up' or 'launched' by ECC; still less is Essex Court Duxton an 'annexe' or 'local brand' of ECC," the group said in its letter to the ministry, adding that media reports suggesting that the Singapore group practice was set up by ECC were mistaken.

"Any communications that may have contributed to this were inadvertent," said the group in the letter, which was disclosed by the ministry.

Essex Court Duxton also explained that the Singapore practice is modelled on a traditional barristers' chambers, in which the members practise individually despite being members of a set of chambers. It added that members are not partners in a firm, nor are they employees.

Besides Mr Rajah, a former Judge of Appeal who stepped down this year as the Attorney General, Essex Court Duxton also comprises three former Justices' Law Clerks: Mr Tham Lijing, Mr Colin Liew and Mr Calvin Liang.

They are understood to be the first Singaporean quartet to be admitted as members of a prominent law Chambers group in the United Kingdom.

Essex Court Duxton said its future communications and publicity will ensure more clarity that it is "an independent Singapore Group Practice".

It added that it has written to all relevant media outlets to ask that corrections be made, and also that the press statement has been removed from the ECC website "so that it could be clarified in a manner that leaves no room for doubt".

Essex Court Duxton had announced on Nov 14 of its launch here.

Two days later, the ministry called for a clarification from the Singapore group, saying the latter's press statement, articles and related statements have created the impression that it is part of the English barristers' chambers based in London.

The ministry asked for an explanation within seven days, saying the impression was contrary to the representations it had received earlier from the Singapore group.

The ministry said it was also contrary to the rules in Singapore, as barristers from ECC cannot practise Singapore law and cannot appear in Singapore courts unless given leave by the Singapore courts or have been admitted to the Singapore Bar.