A lawyer who demeaningly questioned a victim of molestation was suspended for the maximum duration of five years on Wednesday (May 2) for professional misconduct.
(In photo: Lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee)
One would expect a lawyer who runs his own law firm to sound convincing enough to refute the accusations towards his/her client, or at least be capable of delivering a sound argument. However, in a legal case which he eventually lost, Mr. Edmund Wong Sin Yee’s professionalism came under severe scrutiny.
Mr. Wong had defended a 24-year-old male student from China who was accused of brushing his forearm against the breast of a 22-year-old woman on board an MRT train in July 2014.
During his cross-examination of the victim (accuser), Mr. Wong repeatedly asked the woman if she thought she was attractive and told her that he thought she was pretty. He then commanded her to stand up and scrutinised her chest.
The victim, feeling offended, questioned the necessity of his questions. Mr. Wong retorted that he would be asking even more insulting questions. When the district judge intervened, Mr. Wong sought to justify his line of questioning.
“So I’m trying to put my case that, you know, looking at the day (how) she was dressed and… her breast size and all these things… whether there is temptation for anybody or the accused to do such a thing,” he argued.
However, his argument seemed to lack common sense– even to someone untrained in the legal sector.
It was like saying he would have justified someone who walked out of Ding Tai Fung without paying for his/her meal, arguing that perhaps the Xiao Long Baos that he/she was served were not tasty enough, which may entitle him/her to not pay for the meal.
His client, Xu Jiadong was (unsurprisingly) found guilty and jailed for five months.
In a dramatic contrast of events, Mr. Wong’s argument put him in the defendant’s seat in front of the Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession.
Baffled by his argument, Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash asked where he had got the idea that only attractive women were molested. She added it was not for Mr Wong to assess the victim’s attractiveness but for his client to say so in his testimony.
Judge of Appeal Steven Chong also questioned if anyone accused of molestation had ever successfully defended themselves by proving that the victim was “not sufficiently attractive” to be molested.
The court said the totality of his conduct showed he had “no meaningful appreciation” of how a lawyer should conduct himself, and decreed his suspension to take effect in two weeks.