SINGAPORE: The identities of the six trainee lawyers who cheated in the 2020 Bar exams have been disclosed after a High Court judge on Wednesday (Apr 27) rescinded an order to have their names redacted.
The six applicants named in the ex-tempore judgment are Monisha Devaraj, Kushal Atul Shah, Sreeraam Ravenderan, Lynn Kuek Yi Ting, Matthew Chow Jun Feng and Lionel Wong Choong Yoong.
Justice Choo Han Teck said he had allowed an application by the Attorney-General to rescind the redaction and sealing orders following "tremendous public interest" in the matter.
"Initially I believed that redacting the names of the applicants would let them go about the process of recovery quietly and uneventfully, but I am now of the view that it is better to face the publicity than to hide from it," said the judge.
In his initial judgment last week, Justice Choo said he would not name the six lawyers "in the hope that they will not be prejudiced in the long run" after they were found to have cheated in the exams.
"In a profession in which every member must be like Caesar's wife – beyond reproach – dishonesty is a big problem. But it would also be harsh to have one's professional career ended before it has even begun," said the judge last week.
Five of the trainee lawyers shared answers for six of the exam papers through WhatsApp, while the last one colluded with another candidate to cheat in three of the papers.
Justice Choo granted a six-month adjournment for the Bar applications of the five trainee lawyers, and a year's adjournment for the application of the remaining trainee lawyer.
It was not clear from Wednesday's ex tempore judgment which of the six Bar applicants were part of the group of five.
On Wednesday, Justice Choo said that the "tremendous public interest" in the trainee lawyers' identities was "borne by a mix of curiosity, indignation, as well as sympathy".
He added that "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," said the judge.
"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.
"Coming to this instance – sometimes, redemption cannot be claimed behind the mask of anonymity, but by baring one's face and looking everyone in the eye, to see which kind of persons one confronts.
"Facing them in this way, one develops the character of fortitude that the path forward requires. Sometimes one might see an unforgiving face, but, I believe, more often than not, it will be a face that says, 'Get up and try again; you can get it right'."
He added that the Law Society has "a new responsibility" of helping the applicants involved in the case.
"I am sure there are many members of the Law Society who are ready to lend a hand," he added.
In a response to CNA queries on Wednesday, the Law Society said that it made submissions at the hearing in support of rescinding the redaction and sealing orders.
"The six applicants who aspire to be called as advocates and solicitors have to satisfy the Law Society that they are fit and proper persons. Given their past conduct, the Law Society did not consent to their admission," said a Law Society spokesperson.
"Applicants who wish to be called must make a strong case for themselves that they are suitable individuals to be officers of the Court. Each of these applicants may have different circumstances, and they should each take appropriate advice from a lawyer as to if and how they can present a convincing case for admission."
A total of 11 trainee lawyers have been found to have cheated in the 2020 Bar exams.
After the initial revelation of the six applicants, the Attorney-General's Chambers said the Attorney-General was considering the applications of another five trainees who cheated.
To practise law in Singapore, law graduates must be admitted to the Bar by passing a set of exams known as Part B. Law graduates from approved overseas universities must also take another conversion examination known as Part A.
The Attorney-General, Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) and Law Society of Singapore must not object to the application in order for the lawyer to be admitted.