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DPP wants lawyer to personally pay costs for acting on clients’ behalf

By Andrew Loh

In a move which may have “a chilling effect” on how lawyers conduct their cases on behalf of their clients, state prosecutors are asking for the court to order a lawyer to personally pay costs for an application made before the courts.

Lawyer M Ravi, who was acting on behalf of his clients accused of being involved in the Little India riot last December, is being accused of being “negligent and unreasonable” in his conduct when he made the application for the court to dismiss the charges against his client.

Mr Ravi had argued that his clients’ cases had been prejudiced because of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings into the Little India riot while his clients’ cases were pending before the court.

This, he argued then, meant that the COI had “offended the rule of sub judice”.

Mr Ravi then made the application to have his clients’ cases against them to be struck out by the court.

In a counter-move, the AGC applied to have Mr Ravi’s application struck out instead.

On 23 May, both sides agreed to withdraw their respective applications.

However, the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), in a surprise move, applied for the courts to order Mr Ravi to personally pay S$1,000 in costs.

In an unprecedented move in Singapore, Deputy Chief Prosecutor (DCP) Hui Choon Kuen said Mr Ravi’s bid to appear before the COI on his clients’ behalf meant that “he had attempted to do the very thing that he objected to in the criminal motion.” (TODAY)

Also, DCP Hui noted that Mr Ravi had, on a visit to India, made public statements about the cases against his clients. DCP Hui took issue with this, saying that Mr Ravi made these comments only after the COI had ended.

DCP Hui called this a “clear-cut case” of a “frivolous application” by defence counsel who may think that such applications will not “result in any personal downside” to them.

Acting on Mr Ravi’s behalf, lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said that Mr Ravi did the responsible thing by withdrawing his application when the prosecution moved to strike out Mr Ravi’s application.

This showed good faith on Mr Ravi’s part, Mr Thuraisingam said. He added that Mr Ravi was entitled to act in his clients’ interests at any point in time.

Further, Mr Thuraisingam said that if the court “exercised its discretion” in this case “the wrong way”, it would have a “chilling effect and deter criminal lawyers from acting for accused persons to the best of their ability.” (TODAY)

The judge has reserved judgement.

Speaking to The Online Citizen about why he withdrew the application, Mr Ravi said, “Having considered the matter carefully, bearing in mind AG’s position, I felt that my clients’case may not be as strong as I originally felt and hence decided to withdraw to save costs and time.”

“I’m utterly surprised by this course of action by the AG,” he added, “This will deter lawyers from advancing every possible arguments in defence of their clients .”