SINGAPORE — A junior lawyer at a top firm who took photographs of his colleague’s chest and underwear while she was working at her cubicle was struck off the roll on Thursday (May 19).
In a written judgment, the Court of Three Judges said the four-week prison term that was handed down to the errant lawyer in criminal proceedings should not be considered as a factor for a more lenient disciplinary sanction.
The court also said the mere fact that the man was in his first year of practice when he committed the offences did not justify a lesser punishment.
The man cannot be identified owing to a gag order to protect the victim. He is no longer practising law here and is believed to be working as an in-house legal counsel for a business in Indonesia.
He was admitted to the Bar in August 2016 and was an associate at one of the top local law firms.
In April 2017, while the man, then 26, and the victim, a 23-year-old trainee, were both in the office, he leaned over her on the pretext of reading her computer screen.
Resting on the back of her chair, he took the opportunity to look down at her bra over the neckline of her dress and took photos of her chest and bra with his phone.
After viewing the photos in his room, he returned to her cubicle and surreptitiously took several photos of her panties.
He then returned to his room, where he viewed the photos before deleting them.
In October 2017, the victim, who was then an associate with the firm, was having lunch alone at the office when the man entered her room and closed the door behind him.
He sat on the floor and struck up a conversation with the victim. When she swivelled her chair around to talk to him, he took several photos of her panties with his phone.
When she crossed her legs, he asked her if it was painful for women to sit in this way for long.
He then stood up, rested his buttocks on her desk and continued talking to her. He subsequently pressed his thigh against her upper arm.
The man then returned to his room to view the upskirt photos before deleting them.
The woman lodged a police report on Nov 7, 2017.
The man resigned on Nov 15, 2017, and started work at another firm, but left that job after the case was reported in the media.
On June 8, 2020, he pleaded guilty to two charges of insulting the victim’s modesty by taking photos of her chest, brassiere and panties.
Two other charges, one for taking photos of her panties and one for pressing his thigh against her arm, were considered during sentencing. He was sentenced to four weeks’ jail.
On June 16, 2020, the Attorney-General referred the man to the Law Society of Singapore.
The Law Society brought two charges against the man, based on the criminal charges, and informed him by e-mail that it would be applying to the Chief Justice to appoint a disciplinary tribunal.
Multiple attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
The tribunal was appointed in September 2020. Its February 2021 report found there was cause of sufficient gravity for sanction by the court, which is the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession.
The society sought a suspension of between 3½ and five years.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.