Chan Chow Wang v The Law Society of Singapore

CourtPrivy Council
JudgeLord Diplock
Judgment Date23 May 1978
Neutral Citation[1978] SGPC 4
Citation[1978] SGPC 4
Defendant CounselRobert Gatehouse QC and Nicholas Lyell (Parker Garrett & Co)
Plaintiff CounselJohn Newey QC and Ian Glick (Kingsford Dorman & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 17 of 1976
Date23 May 1978
Subject MatterDisciplinary procedures,Conduct of investigations by inquiry committee,Whether in breach of rules of natural justice,s 86(3), 87 Legal Profession Act (Cap 217),Legal Profession,Whether every written complaint had to be supported by statutory declaration,Copy of statutory declaration not given to advocate and solicitor,Complainant requested to make statutory declaration

Cur Adv Vult

(delivering the judgment of the Board): This is an appeal from an order of the High Court of 22 November 1974 which ordered that the appellant, Mr Chan, be struck off the Roll of Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore. The proceedings which culminated in the Order arose out of his conduct in connection with professional work which he had undertaken in 1972 as solicitor for Mrs Seah Huay (the complainant) who was acting as next friend for her son who was then under age. He had sustained an accident in the course of his employment and wanted to claim damages from his employers. Mr Chan issued a writ on his behalf in the High Court. The action was ultimately settled upon payment by the employers` insurers to Mr Chan of a sum of $5,000, including costs.

Arising out of his conduct in connection with these proceedings and the settlement, which is set out in detail in the judgment of the High Court and is the subject of concurrent findings of fact by that court and the disciplinary committee which heard and investigated the matter, Mr Chan was charged with having been guilty (1) of grossly improper conduct in entering into an agreement with the complainant to accept as his fee 10% of any damages recovered in the event of success; (2) with fraudulent conduct in representing that the insurers had paid the sum of $3,300 by way of damages; and (3) of fraudulent conduct in deducting from the amount paid to him by the insurers the sum of $1,000 for his costs without disclosing it to the complainant.

The disciplinary proceedings which culminated in the Order striking Mr Chan off the Roll started with a written complaint addressed by the complainant to the Law Society of Singapore in a letter of 3 November 1972.
This was referred by the Council under s 86(1) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 217) to an inquiry committee appointed under s 85(1). The duty of the inquiry committee on receipt of such complaint is set out in s 87 of the Act, the provisions of which, so far as relevant for the purposes of the present appeal, are as follows:

(1) Where the Inquiry Committee has -

(a) received a written order;

(b) decided of its own motion to inquire into any matter; or

(c) received a written application or complaint and is satisfied that there may be grounds for such an application or complaint,

it shall inquire into and investigate the matter and report to the Council on the matter.

(2) The Inquiry Committee shall also report to the Council where the Inquiry Committee is satisfied that there are no grounds for such an application or complaint.


(5) Before any inquiry or investigation begins in respect of any matter -

(a) the Inquiry Committee shall post or deliver to the advocate and solicitor concerned -

(i) copies of any written application or complaint and of any statutory declarations or affidavits that have been made in support of the application or complaint; and

(ii) a notice setting out any or any further particulars that may be necessary to disclose the reason for the inquiry or investigation and inviting the member concerned, within such period (not being less than fourteen days) as may be specified in the notice, to give to the Inquiry Committee any written explanation he may wish to offer and to advise the Inquiry Committee if he wishes to be heard by the Committee; and

(b) the Inquiry Committee shall allow the time specified in the notice to elapse and shall give the advocate and solicitor concerned reasonable opportunity to be heard if he so desires and shall give due consideration to any explanation he may make.

(6) Subject to the provisions of this Act and to any rules made by the Council under this Act the Inquiry Committee may regulate its own procedure as it deems fit.

The reference in s 87(5)(a)(i) to `any statutory declarations or affidavits that have been made in support of the application or complaint` refers back to s 86(3) which reads as follows:

Every written application or complaint received by the Inquiry Committee shall be supported by such statutory declarations or affidavits as the Inquiry Committee may require.

On 27 November 1972 the inquiry committee addressed a

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