Re An Advocate and Solicitor

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date24 January 1978
Neutral Citation[1978] SGHC 4
Citation[1978] SGHC 4
Date24 January 1978
Defendant CounselLAJ Smith
Plaintiff CounselTay Soo Tee
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 99 of 1977
Published date19 September 2003
Subject MatterFormulation of charges,Show cause action,ss 84, 88 and 93 Legal Profession Act (1970 ed),Whether charges may be formulated by the Disciplinary Committee,Legal Profession,Whether advocate and solicitor knew of touting and should have made inquiries,Disciplinary Procedures,Whether advocate and solicitor guilty of misconduct

(delivering the judgment of the Court): This is an application under s 98(6) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 217, 1970 Ed) (hereinafter referred to as the Act) calling upon Ong Tiang Choon (the respondent), an advocate and solicitor of this court, to show cause why he should not be dealt with under the provisions of s 84 of the Act, the relevant portions of which read -

84(2) Such due cause may be shown by proof that such person -

(b) has been guilty of fraudulent or grossly improper conduct in the discharge of his professional duty or guilty of such a breach of any usage or rule of conduct made by the Council under the provisions of this Act as in the opinion of the court amounts to improper conduct or practice as an advocate and solicitor; or

(e) has directly or indirectly procured or attempted to procure the employment of himself or any advocate and solicitor through or by the instruction of any person to whom any remuneration for obtaining such employment has been given by him or agreed or promised to be so given; or

(h) has done some other act which would render him liable to be disbarred or struck off the roll of the court or suspended from practice or censured if a barrister or solicitor in England due regard being had to the fact that the two professions are fused in Singapore.



The matter stems from a complaint to the Law Society on 10 March 1976 by the Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. No doubt the Council referred the said complaint under s 86(1) to the Inquiry Committee which inquired into and investigated the complaint and reported to the Council under s 87 of the said Act. The Council under s 88(1)(c) of the Act determined that there should be a formal investigation by a disciplinary committee and, acting under s 88(2) of the Act, wrote to the respondent on 16 September 1976:

Law Society of Singapore

Supreme Court Building,

Singapore 6.

16 September 1976

Ong Tiang Choon Esq,

Messrs Ong Tiang Choon & Co

Room 171-C Third Floor Union Building,

179 Tras Street,

Singapore 2.

Dear Sir,

Re: Complaints by the Director, CPIB

I am directed to inform you pursuant to the provisions of s 88(1)(c) of the Legal Profession Act (Ch 217) that the Council has determined that there should be a formal investigation by a Disciplinary Committee into the following complaints against you, viz -

Payment of moneys to a tout for bringing in accident cases.

Yours faithfully,

Sd Lim Yew Hock

Co-Secretary,

The Law Society of Singapore



On the same day the honourable the Chief Justice by virtue of s 91 of the Act and all powers enabling him in that behalf appointed a disciplinary committee to hear and investigate a complaint against the respondent.

In compliance with the Advocates and Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 1963 the respondent was on 13 October 1976 served with a Formal Application, the Formal Complaint and the Statement of the Case dated 28 September 1976 which specified the allegations against the respondent under two heads (i) payment of monies to a tout for bringing in accident cases and (ii) receiving costs other than taxed costs from accident victims contrary to s 17(3) of the Motor Vehicles (Third Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 88, 1970 Ed).

The disciplinary committee sat on 1 and 2 February 1977 to hear and investigate into the matters referred to it. At the commencement of the hearing counsel for the Law Society applied to amend the statement of the case and, after hearing objections to the proposed amendments from counsel for the respondent, the disciplinary committee gave leave to amend. The amended statement of the case then read as follows:

Amended statement of the case

1 Ong Tiang Choon, an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, is the sole proprietor of the firm of Ong Tiang Choon & Co of Room 171C (Third floor), Union Building, Tras Street, Singapore and is of 20 years` standing.

(2) Sometime in 1972 one Lee Kim Bock also known as Michael Lee Khoon Bock, visited the office of the said Ong Tiang Choon together with a friend who was injured in an accident and on this occasion, the said Lee Kim Bock also known as Michael Lee Khoon Bock met one Ong Ching Wat, a chief clerk of the said Ong Tiang Choon who expressly or impliedly conveyed to him that if he (Michael Lee Khoon Bock) would bring or introduce injured persons (i.e. accident victims) to the firm of Ong Tiang Choon & Co, Lee Kim Bock also known as Michael Lee Khoon Bock would be paid for his efforts and services.

(3) Between 1972 and 1974 the said Lee Kim Bock also known as Michael Lee Khoon Bock (hereinafter referred to as the tout) for reasons of business, that is to say, for reward or remuneration became interested in accident claims and introduced, recommended or brought, about ten accident victims to the said Ong Tiang Choon`s office, and the said Ong Tiang Choon acted for these accident victims and accepted them as his clients, all of whom were brought to him by the said tout.

(4) Amongst the accident victims referred to in para 3 hereof were one Patrick Lau, an infant and one Romli bin Sulaiman alias Romli bin Sulaman who were involved in two separate road accidents in Singapore in 1974. With respect to each of these cases, the tout loitered outside the Sepoy Lines Police Station, Singapore and in the case of the said Patrick Lau, he approached Patrick Lau and his parents Goh Ah Tin and Lau Hock Seng after they had made a report at the said police station and prevailed upon them to follow him to Ong Tiang Choon`s office where they met and were initially attended to by one Ong Tai Buay, a clerk attached to Ong Tiang Choon & Co. With respect to the said Romli bin Sulaiman alias Romli bin Sulaman, the tout approached him after he had made a report at the Sepoy Lines Police Station, and brought him to Ong Tiang Choon`s office where they met and were attended to by Ong Ching Wat, a chief clerk of Ong Tiang Choon & Co. Subsequently, Ong Tiang Choon acted for the aforesaid persons and settled their respective claims with the appropriate insurance companies as follows:

(1) Patrick Lau

General damages $500.00

Special damages $250.00

Costs $100.00

$850.00

Out of the total sum of $850 received from Oriental Fire and General Insurance Co Ltd, Ong Tiang Choon deducted two sums of $150 and $100 allegedly being his costs and gave Patrick Lau`s mother, Goh Ah Ting $600 but she was asked to acknowledge $750.

(2) Romli bin Sulaiman alias Romli bin Sulaman

Out of a sum of $500 received from the Peoples Insurance Co (M) Ltd, Romli bin Sulaiman alias Romli bin Sulaman received $250 and Ong Tiang Choon retained $250 out of which $150 was agreed costs from the insurance company and $100 was alleged to be costs in lieu of taxation.

5 The said Ong Tiang Choon whilst acting for the said Patrick Lau, his mother Goh Ah Tin and Romli bin Sulaiman alias Romli bin Sulaman, did in each of the aforesaid cases, receive or accept payments of money from them for so acting other than taxed costs, contrary to the provisions of s 17(3) of the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 88).

(6) For each of the two cases referred to in para 4 hereof, the tout was paid $20 by the said Ong Ching Wat with the knowledge or tacit approval of the said Ong Tiang Choon. Both...

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