Lawyer Edmond Wong used F-word in court
Lawyer rapped for 'indecent' courtroom antics fined last month over vice trial
He stared inappropriately at a molest victim and suggested that her breast size and dressing could have "tempted" his client to molest her.
When sentencing the molester to five months' jail, District Judge Shawn Ho also took defence lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee to task for his "indecent and scandalous" cross-examination of the victim in court.
The lawyer in his late 50s, who was called to the Bar in 1998, is no stranger to controversy, having been jailed for road rage, among other offences.
Last month, he was hauled up before a Law Society disciplinary tribunal for making insulting comments while a prosecution witness was testifying during a trial in September last year.
Mr Wong represented three men accused of vice activities at a KTV club, and Mr Daniel Atticus Xu represented a fourth accused, who was a woman.
The New Paper obtained a copy of the tribunal report, which listed six charges of improper conduct or practice against Mr Wong.
Last month, he was found guilty of two out of the six charges, which included misconduct not befitting a lawyer by failing to treat his professional colleagues with courtesy and improper conduct or practice by making scandalous statements.
On Sept 15 last year, while the prosecution was asking a witness to recount sexual acts she had ostensibly performed on a customer, Mr Wong remarked, "Ask her whether shiok (Singlish for enjoyable) or not", the tribunal report said.
During cross-examination by Mr Xu the next day, the same witness said she was unable to recount a particular event, prompting Mr Wong to utter: "Can remember the sex but can't remember anything else."
The following day, Mr Wong used the expletive "F***" in response to the same witness' answers to Mr Xu's questions.
Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Houston Tian Jin Johannus and Lee Pei Rong Rachel heard the three comments, and DPP Johannus spoke out in court against Mr Wong's use of expletives.
In November last year, the Attorney-General made a complaint to the Law Society, which then took action against Mr Wong.
Mr Wong's lawyer for the disciplinary tribunal, Senior Counsel (SC) Chelva R. Rajah, said his client admitted to making the remarks, but denied contravening the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules.
He said the statements were not made to annoy the DPPs or insult the witness, and were not meant to be heard - and were not heard - by the witness who does not understand English.
Mr Wong said he had made the first statement as a joke at the spur of the moment and rhetorically. SC Rajah said it was not meant as a suggestion for DPP Johannus to ask the witness if she had enjoyed the sexual acts, or to annoy the DPPs.
The second and third statements were made as prompts to Mr Xu, and were not intended to insult the witness or annoy the DPPs. He admitted the remarks could have been better phrased.
The third remark, in particular, was not uttered as a single abusive expletive, and Mr Wong had intended to prompt Mr Xu to ask the witness if she had a customer "pay her money to f*** or not", said SC Rajah.
The tribunal, consisting of SC Edwin Tong and Mr Pradeep Pillai, found that the first remark could not be discourteous to the DPPs as it was not directed at them and they were not the subject of the comment.
However, the tribunal was of the view that the remark was calculated to annoy the DPPs, and would have been distracting and inappropriate.
The second remark was directed at Mr Xu, and could not be scandalous or intended to insult or annoy the DPPs, they said.
The tribunal found the third remark was not mentioned singularly, and was made as part of a statement to Mr Wong's co-defence counsel who was asking the witness if customers had paid her or the establishment for sex.
However, the tribunal also said that the use of expletives during proceedings could not be condoned.
The tribunal also clarified that it was not the Law Society's case that the witness was or would have been insulted or annoyed by the remarks.
As a result of the tribunal hearing, Mr Wong was fined a total of $3,000, and also had to pay the Law Society $6,500 for costs incurred.
The tribunal report also said there was insufficient cause for disciplinary action to be taken against Mr Wong.
The case is still pending as the Law Society is reviewing the report and the recommended sanctions by the tribunal.
In the July 2015 edition of the Singapore Law Gazette, Law Society president Thio Shen Yi said a study committee had been formed by the Singapore Academy of Law with the Law Society's participation to look into the etiquette, professionalism and ethical conduct of lawyers.
He suggested that errant lawyers undergo training and consistent reinforcement with regards to court etiquette and ethics.
He added that constructive measures to de-escalate matters before they go straight to the disciplinary tribunal should be implemented, like imposing mandatory training, counselling or mentoring programmes.
'Indecent' conduct earns judge's rebuke
While defending his client against a molest charge, he stared at the breasts of the molest victim and built his case around the argument that only attractive women would get molested on the train.
Lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee's line of questioning earned a strong rebuke from District Judge Shawn Ho, who described his conduct in court as "unacceptable", "indecent" and "scandalous".
In his 44-page grounds of decision in convicting Xu Jiadong, Judge Ho devoted six pages to reprimanding Mr Wong, who runs his own firm, S Y Wong Law Chambers.
Xu, a 24-year-old student from China, had been accused of brushing his forearm against the breast of a 22-year-old woman on a train at Toa Payoh MRT station on July 9, 2014.
The grounds of decision, released on Thursday, mentioned in detail an incident during the trial when Mr Wong asked the victim to stand up on the witness stand before staring at her breasts.
When Judge Ho asked why he had done that, Mr Wong said: "Your Honour, I want to see... how attractive (she is) when (she) stands up..."
This prompted the victim to ask: "Is this necessary?" before adding: "I feel very offended."
The disgraced lawyer has a chequered record.
In 1992, he punched a nurse at the Singapore National Eye Centre and insulted the modesty of a female employee at the clinic.
In 2001, he was jailed and fined in a road rage incident, where he hit a motorist and insulted the motorist's wife.
In 2003, the Court of Three Judges suspended Mr Wong from practice for two years over the road rage conviction.
Two years later, Mr Wong was arrested by anti-narcotics officers on suspicion of heading a multimillion-dollar ketamine trafficking syndicate overseas.
Between early 2004 and April 2005, he had allegedly used his former clients as runners to smuggle ketamine from Malaysia to Taiwan, and from Malaysia to China through Hong Kong.
He was held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, a last-resort law used, among other instances, on those whom no one would dare testify against in court.
In 2006, Mr Wong was given a four-month jail term for drug use. The sentence ran concurrently with his detention.
It is not known when Mr Wong was released from detention but The New Paper understands that since last year, he was no longer subject to police supervision orders.
A State Courts spokesman said it would look into appropriate follow-up action regarding Mr Wong.