Lawyer disbarred for sexual harassment

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Court of Three Judges said man's apology letter was admission that he molested woman

A lawyer who lured his assistant to a hotel room and took sexual advantage of her was yesterday struck off the rolls for his "egregious" conduct by a Court of Three Judges.

Mr Ismail Atan, 45, maintained his innocence, contending that the woman had made up the allegations because her request for a more senior position in the firm was rejected.

But the court noted that despite portraying himself as the innocent victim of a "destructive colleague", the lawyer of 20 years was content to "sit idly by" when she sent out a mass e-mail six days later, pouring scorn on him for sexually harassing her.

And after he was charged for molesting the 28-year-old married woman, he signed a letter unreservedly apologising for "unwarranted physical contact", as part of a deal to compound the case.

The court said the apology letter was an admission by Mr Ismail that what the woman had said was essentially true.

Mr Ismail's conduct showed "a defect of character so serious that it renders (him) unfit to be a member of this honourable profession", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

In 2013, Mr Ismail was representing a client who sued the VIP Hotel in Balmoral Crescent after she slipped and fell there.

On the pretext of gathering evidence, he told his assistant to go with him to the hotel so they could pose as a couple to avoid suspicion. He then told her he had booked a room and told her to wait inside.

But he followed her in and grabbed her, told her he liked her and suggested that they have an affair. He held on to her and tried to kiss her despite her attempts to push him away.

He rubbed himself against her and forced her to kiss him before he agreed to let her leave.

She resigned after her request to be transferred was rejected.

She also made a police report.

He was cleared of the molestation charge in 2015 after she accepted his offer to compound the matter for $3,000 in compensation and a letter of apology.