Eleven trainee lawyers have been found guilty of cheating in their 2020 online bar exam in Singapore.
High Court Judge Choo Han Teck issued judgment against six of the trainees earlier this week. Five additional cases have since been reported.
The first six trainee lawyers have had their admission to the bar delayed. Five of them were discovered to have shared responses in six articles via the online messaging platform WhatsApp and had to retake the exam after being discovered and later found guilty of wrongdoing early on. investigation.
The remaining trainee turned out to be colluding with another person who showed up for the exam. She initially denied cheating in three of the newspapers, but later filed an affidavit two days before the admissions hearing, apologizing for her conduct. She also had to retake the exam.
All six have since passed their exams, but Singapore’s Attorney General Lucien Wong has delayed their bar applications. Wong is former chairman and senior partner of the Singaporean law firm Allen & Gledhill.
“The AG was of the opinion that the candidates lacked honesty and integrity and should not be admitted to the bar – at least not for some time – as it is questionable whether they can currently be sworn in at their admission, which requires them to declare that they “will conduct (themselves) truly and honestly in the practice of a barrister and a barrister according to the best knowledge and ability and according to the law”, wrote the Judge Choo in his judgment.
The group of five bar admission applications have been postponed for six months. The sixth lawyer’s request was postponed for 12 months.
To prevent the six interns from being harmed in the future, the court redacted their names and ordered that the file be sealed.
Singapore law graduates must complete a six-month course, pass the bar exam and complete a six-month training contract with a law firm before qualifying for admission to the bar.
According to Choo, the decision to defer their admissions was “not meant to be a punishment,” but rather for the six “to reflect on the error of their ways.”
He also commented on what he feared was a growing culture of cheating.
“When so many candidates have cheated on a professional qualification exam in so many articles, including one for ‘Ethics and Professional Responsibility,’ then something is wrong somewhere,” he wrote.
“Dishonesty and lack of probity are not the only flaws at issue in this case. When a person resorts to cheating during an exam, it also reveals a lack of diligence and a tendency to take shortcuts, which is also not good professional qualities,” he added. .
Choo also wondered if the way the exams were administered, which were online, created a more conducive environment for cheating.
The choice to defer the registration to the bar of the six candidates and the protection of their identity were partly perceived by the market as too lenient a consequence. Associates in Singapore have expressed concern about a lawyer from an international law firm saying: “Disciplinary matters for the legal profession have always been public, and this reflects the public’s trust in members of the bar. to act honorably. The legal profession is one of the few professions that requires one to be a “fit and proper” person.
“The public concern, which is not limited to members of the bar, over this incident is telling,” he added.
In Canada, the Law Society of Ontario is currently investigating an unknown number of people who may have been involved in an incident of cheating over bar exams that were to be administered online in March. These exams were canceled at the last minute after the breach was detected and rescheduled for later this year, to be taken in person only.