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HomesingaporeLaw Society ordered to refund Christopher de Souza costs of over S$32,000...

Law Society ordered to refund Christopher de Souza costs of over S$32,000 after his acquittal

SINGAPORE: The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) has been ordered to pay a refund of more than S$32,000 (US$23,700) in costs to Member of Parliament Christopher James de Souza, after the 47-year-old was acquitted of improper professional conduct as a lawyer.

Mr de Souza had originally been ordered to pay the same amount to LawSoc for the disciplinary tribunal proceedings brought against him for misconduct.

His lawyers, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng and Mr Calvin Ong of WongPartnership, said in a statement to CNA on Tuesday (Nov 7) that he is “humbled” by the result and feels fully vindicated.

Mr de Souza is now allowed to “continue focusing on his many duties – to family, country and practice”, said his lawyers. 

The disciplinary tribunal had found Mr de Souza, who is also Deputy Speaker of Parliament, guilty of helping a client suppress evidence from the court.

However, the Court of Three Judges overturned the finding and acquitted Mr de Souza in July, saying it was clear to them that Mr de Souza had not intended to suppress the breach by his client.

Mr de Souza’s client had breached his undertakings to court by using confidential information and documents that had been obtained due to search orders and were to be used only for a High Court suit.

Instead, the client used them to file police and other reports against the parties the client was suing.

In the Court of Three Judges’ verdict, Justice Belinda Ang, Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Kannan Ramesh found that LawSoc had not made out its charge against Mr de Souza, and that “intention is a necessary ingredient of the charge”.

In the grounds of decision published on Tuesday, the Court of Three Judges ordered LawSoc to refund Mr de Souza the sum of S$32,394.12 he had paid LawSoc after the disciplinary tribunal proceedings had concluded.

The sum comprised costs of S$18,000 and disbursements – or expenses incurred by the law firm on behalf of a client – of S$14,394.12.

According to the grounds, Mr de Souza’s lawyers had argued for LawSoc to bear costs also for the hearing before the Court of Three Judges, calling LawSoc’s investigations into Mr de Souza’s conduct “unjustified”.

His lawyers alleged that LawSoc had prosecuted their client “in an oppressive and unjustified manner”.

However, the court was “unconvinced that an adverse costs order should be made” against LawSoc for the Court of Three Judges hearing, and ordered both sides to bear their own costs for this.

In response to CNA’s queries, LawSoc noted in a statement on Tuesday evening that the Court of Three Judges held that the society was entitled to investigate matters relating to Mr de Souza’s conduct, beyond the original issues raised to it.

The Court’s judgment also held that LawSoc had complied with procedural requirements in the Legal Profession Act; and that it had not acted in bad faith, said a LawSoc spokesperson.

Mr de Souza’s lawyers on Tuesday pointed to the Court’s judgment which highlighted that Mr de Souza “had indeed disclosed the client’s breaches to the court and that this ‘was fatal to the Law Society’s case theory'”.

They said the MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC “is pleased that the matter has been finally closed and he has been fully vindicated”.


Court of Three Judges acquits MP Christopher de Souza of misconduct as a lawyer
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