SINGAPORE – Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Christopher de Souza can continue to hold his political appointments, after a court on Monday acquitted him of professional misconduct.
Mr de Souza, a partner at Lee & Lee, was facing disciplinary proceedings brought against him by the Law Society, which had argued for him to be suspended for four years.
After the ruling by the Court of Three Judges on Monday, The Straits Times spoke to legal experts and political observers on what the acquittal would mean for Mr de Souza’s political career.
Constitutional law expert and NUS adjunct law professor Kevin Tan said: “From the legal point of view, there’s no issue. He can remain as MP and carry on as Deputy Speaker.”
Assistant Professor Benjamin Joshua Ong from the Yong Pung How School of Law at Singapore Management University (SMU), who specialises in constitutional and administrative law, said: “Given the gravity of the charge against him, his acquittal will certainly go some way towards restoring any trust that may have previously been lost.
“Of course, we will have to await the results of the next election to determine the precise impact on his political career in the longer term.”
Associate Professor of Law at SMU Eugene Tan said Mr de Souza’s role as MP was not under threat, regardless of the outcome in court.
“He would not be disqualified from being an MP by virtue of professional misconduct as a lawyer. Now that the court has fully acquitted Mr de Souza, there is no basis for him to be relieved of his position as Deputy Speaker,” said Prof Tan, who is also a former Nominated MP.
“Mr de Souza can hold his head high,” he added.
A People’s Action Party spokesman told ST that the party has always believed in the due process of law, and upholds the high standards of integrity expected of its MPs. “We are very happy that the court has fully acquitted Mr Christopher de Souza,” the spokesman said.
Mr de Souza was found guilty of a misconduct charge by an independent disciplinary tribunal in 2022.
The two-member tribunal said he had not made full and frank disclosure to the court when he was aware his client had breached an undertaking not to use documents seized in a search.
The tribunal said he helped his client in suppressing evidence by preparing and filing an affidavit that did not reveal the client had breached its undertaking.
The charge was one of five brought against him by the Law Society in relation to his conduct, while he was acting for Amber Compounding Pharmacy and Amber Laboratories. The other four were dismissed by the tribunal.
The charges came after the court filed a complaint against Mr de Souza on Sept 9, 2020. The complaint highlighted observations made by the court in its written judgment.
An inquiry committee convened on Jan 13, 2021, found that Mr de Souza had breached his paramount duty to the court, and recommended he be fined $2,000.