Law Society of Singapore v Heng Guan Hong Geoffrey

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date24 November 1999
Date24 November 1999
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1430 of 1999

[1999] SGHC 304

High Court

Yong Pung How CJ

,

L P Thean JA

and

Chao Hick Tin JA

Originating Summons No 1430 of 1999

Law Society of Singapore
Plaintiff
and
Heng Guan Hong Geoffrey
Defendant

Savliwala Din (Salem Ibrahim & Partners) for the applicant

Respondent absent.

Bolton v Law Society [1994] 1 WLR 512; [1994] 2 All ER 486 (folld)

Han Ngiap Juan, Re [1993] 1 SLR (R) 135; [1993] 2 SLR 81 (folld)

Law Society of Singapore v Ravindra Samuel [1999] 1 SLR (R) 266; [1999] 1 SLR 696 (folld)

Law Society of Singapore v Tham Yu Xian Rick [1999] 3 SLR (R) 68; [1999] 4 SLR 168 (folld)

Marshall David, Re; Law Society of Singapore v Marshall David Saul [1971-1973] SLR (R) 554; [1972-1974] SLR 132 (folld)

Solicitor, In reA [1960] 2 QB 212; [1960] 2 All ER 621 (folld)

Wheatley v Bastow (1855) 7 De G M & G 558; 44 ER 218 (folld)

Legal Profession Act (Cap 161,1997 Rev Ed)ss 83 (2) (b), 83 (2) (h) (consd);ss 83,83 (1),83 (2) (a)

Legal Profession–Show cause action–Conduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor –Grossly improper conduct–Use of dishonest means to obtain large sums of money–Standard of judgment for misconduct–Appropriate penalty where dishonesty proven–Sections 83 (2) (b) and 83 (2) (h) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Rev Ed)

Heng was charged with six charges of misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor under s 83 (2) (h) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Rev Ed) (“the Act”) and another charge of grossly improper conduct in the discharge of his professional duty under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act.

Three of the charges under s 83 (2) (h) of the Act related to Heng's dealings with a property, which he had purported to sell to two different buyers. The first charge against Heng was for misleading a partner in his law firm into releasing to him a sum of S$180,000 that had been paid to the firm by the purchaser. The second charge was for deceiving and inducing a couple (“Chan and Khoo”) into paying him S$34,000 in exchange for the grant of an option to purchase, without disclosing to them that he had already contracted to sell the property in question to another buyer. The third charge was for falsely representing to Chan and Khoo, or their agents, that his wife had signed the option to signify her consent to selling the property.

The remaining charges arose out of Heng's dealings with two other properties. Three of the charges were under s 83 (2) (h) of the Act for deceiving various parties into paying him sums of money to acquire an interest in the properties. The last charge under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act was for withdrawing, without the authority of his client, caveats over the properties.

The Disciplinary Committee found Heng guilty on all the charges and he was ordered to show cause as to why he should not be dealt with under s 83 of the Act. Heng was not present nor represented at the proceedings before the Disciplinary Committee or at the hearing before this court.

Held, striking respondent off the roll:

(1) Grossly improper conduct in the discharge of a solicitor's professional duty was conduct which was dishonourable to him as a man and dishonourable to his profession: at [20].

(2) Heng's conduct as alleged in the charge under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act was dishonourable to him as a person and as an advocate and solicitor. Acting without express consent and authority and in a manner opposed to a client's interest would be grossly improper conduct. Heng's motive was to continue dealing dishonestly with the properties and such conduct and motive was not merely grossly improper conduct but was sufficient to constitute fraudulent conduct in the discharge of Heng's professional duties under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act: at [20] and [21].

(3) The standard of judgment to be applied to a solicitor's misconduct under s 83 (2) (h), as in a case under s 83 (2) (a), was a standard fixed by the court and not by the standard of peer judgment: at [23] and [24].

(4) Unlike “grossly improper conduct” under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act, “conduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor” under s 83 (2) (h) was not confined to misconduct in the solicitor's professional capacity but also extended to misconduct in the solicitor's personal capacity: at [25].

(5) Heng's whole course of conduct was calculated to enable him to obtain large sums of money from various parties through dishonest means. Such dishonest conduct would tend to bring the profession as a whole into disrepute and was clearly unbefitting of an advocate and solicitor as a member of an honourable profession: at [26] and [27].

(6) Where an advocate and solicitor had been proven to have acted dishonestly, whether or not leading to criminal proceedings and criminal penalties, the court would invariably order that he be struck off the roll. In the present circumstances, the only suitable penalty to be imposed was striking off the roll: at [29] and [30].

Yong Pung How CJ

1 The respondent was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore on 14 October 1992, after which he joined the firm of M/s Derrick Ravi & Partners (“DRP”) and later became an equity partner of the firm.

2 In December 1997, the respondent's partners made a complaint to the Law Society against him. This complaint led to disciplinary proceedings against the respondent in respect of his dealings with two of his properties, namely, 36 Jalan Buloh Perindu and 2 and 2A Bowmont Gardens. The Disciplinary Committee found the respondent guilty of six charges of misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor under s 83 (2) (h) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Ed) (the “Act”) and another charge of grossly improper conduct in the discharge of his professional duty under s 83 (2) (b) of the Act. The Disciplinary Committee's findings resulted in this application by the Law Society to make absolute an order for the respondent to show cause why he should not be dealt with under s 83 of the Act in such manner as this court should deem fit.

...

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1 books & journal articles
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