Lawyer's cross-examination of molest victim amounted to 'grossly improper' conduct

Lawyer's actions crossed the line: Tribunal

A lawyer whose cross-examination of a molest victim in 2015 drew a denunciation by the trial judge will have to face the Court of Three Judges for professional misconduct.

A disciplinary tribunal, holding a probe after a complaint by the Attorney-General, found Mr Edmund Wong Sin Yee's actions to have crossed the line and amounted to "grossly improper conduct" under the Legal Profession Act.

The Attorney-General had taken issue with Mr Wong's questioning of the victim during the August 2015 trial of Xu Jiadong for intentionally brushing against her breasts.

Mr Wong, the defence lawyer, was charged with cross-examining the victim in a dishonourable manner by, among other things, asking her to stand up to see how attractive she was.

The tribunal comprising Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming and Mr Leong Hee Tean, issued its report on Oct 11.

At the hearings in March, the Law Society, represented by lawyers Chandra Mohan and Audrey Lim, called the deputy public prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo in the 2015 case. He testified the victim was "visibly distressed" by Mr Wong's cross-examination.

Mr Wong, defended by lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya, declined to cross-examine Mr Kong and argued he had no case to answer.

He also declined to give evidence, which the tribunal said did him no favours as he did not use the opportunity to clarify the manner and motivation of his cross-examination style.

The tribunal said the need to explain is even more compelling when the concerns are raised by the Attorney-General and district judge, who have no interest other than to protect the profession by ensuring high standards of conduct are observed.

It found that Mr Wong's offensive line of questioning was compounded by his focus on the victim's physical attributes in his exchange with the judge.

It ruled Mr Wong should have been mindful of his language at all times, and it was not an excuse to suggest the district judge should have sent out the witness prior to the exchange.

Mr Wong was ordered to pay $5,000 in costs to the Law Society. - THE STRAITS TIMES


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