The Cheats

Law graduates have to go a through a six-month course and pass the Bar exam, as well as complete a six-month training contract with a law firm, before they can qualify to practice. Their applications to be called to the Bar have to be accepted by the Attorney-General, the Singapore Institute of Legal Education and the Law Society.

Last month, news broke that 11 of these wannabe lawyers have cheated when sitting for their Bar exams.

They all got off with a slap on the wrist.

Their names were redacted and they have been allowed to seek admission to the Bar at a later date.

Sure, no one should be made to pay for his wrongdoing forever, but redacting the names of the six would-be lawyers who cheated in their Bar exam, and allowing them to apply for admission to the Bar later, is too light a punishment. It sends the wrong signals.

These graduates are all already in the employ of large, reputable firms and their egregious conduct should not be downplayed.

Lawyers are custodians of justice and if they themselves cannot be on the straight and narrow, how can they be trusted to protect our legal rights?

The bottom line is this: we should be able to trust our lawyers. Ethics and
professionalism are the backbone of the legal profession.

If integrity is missing, even at this young age, how can we expect to trust our lawyers with our problems, our assets, our confidential information?

My psychological work with pathological liars has convinced me that a person’s dishonest trait is most probably very unlikely to fade with time.

True, there are criminals who have rehabilitated themselves. Today, a few are even lawyers. They use their life experience to represent and counsel young people to follow the law. But those are rare exceptions.

I was also unable to comprehend Justice Choo Han Teck’s point, made during the Bar admissions hearing, that names may not be redacted in future cases of cheating. Did he mean it as a warning that future cases may not face as much leniency?

NOTE: In late April, High Court judge Choo Han Teck reversed his decision to redact the names of the first six trainee lawyers who had cheated in the 2020 Bar examination.

Justice Choo said: “The tremendous public interest in the applicants’ identities seems to have been borne by a mix of curiosity, indignation as well as sympathy.

“But strong sentiments may sometimes interfere with the proper understanding of the idea of second chances. We know that there are different kinds of people where second chances are concerned – those who believe in them and those who don’t.

“And there are those who need them, and those who give them. And in between, there is a vast stretch in which we can debate to no end as to who is deserving and who is not.”

Does the judge think he is the only one with the brains to understand the meaning of second chances or does he think his interpretation of second chances is the only right one?

Jesus, must some people always have the last word?

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