SINGAPORE: Lim Tean, a Singaporean lawyer and leader of the People’s Voice (PV) party, will have his defence counsel apply to dismiss the charges against him now that the prosecution has concluded its case on the second day of his trial, held on Thursday (28 Dec).
Lim pleads not guilty to three charges brought against him for allegedly practising law without a valid practising certificate (PC) under the Legal Profession Act.
Lim’s counsel Patrick Fernandez informed the Court that they would make a “no case to answer” motion regarding the three charges.
He specified that this written submission, seeking Lim’s acquittal, will be presented when the case resumes in the early part of next year.
This application is based on the defence’s belief that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to substantiate its case against Lim.
On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Edwin Soh addressed two concerns raised by the defence during Wednesday’s hearing in Lim Tean’s trial.
The first issue pertained to the evidence notes detailing instances when Lim allegedly appeared in court without a practising certificate, which the defence claimed was incomplete.
DPP Soh responded that after a thorough check, the prosecution found the evidence notes to be complete, except for some missing pages related to several military court trials.
These missing pages were subsequently printed out and submitted to the court as part of the prosecution’s evidence.
The second matter DPP Soh raised was regarding the defence’s request to access the first information report concerning Lim’s alleged offence.
“There was no first information report lodged with the CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) as it was the registrar of the Supreme Court who notified the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) when the registrar noticed that Mr Lim was attending court without a valid practising certificate,” said DPP Soh.
He added that AGC then passed the case on to CAD.
Lim Tean seeks correspondence to verify allegations and question selective prosecution
Lim, through his legal representative, Mr Fernandez, expressed disbelief that the registrar informed AGC about his court appearances without a valid practising certificate.
Lim also believed that he was not the only one attending court without the necessary certification.
“Mr Lim is asking to see the correspondence to establish the truth of the complaint and to see whether other solicitors were in the list. If there were, why is he being singled out for prosecution?”
Mr Fernandez argued that without access to the correspondence between the Supreme Court registrar and AGC, Lim’s defence will be “crippled”.
He warned that if the prosecution refused to disclose this correspondence, Lim would file a criminal motion with the High Court to obtain these documents.
“He is entitled to know the truth about the matter and whether he was the only one who allegedly came to court without a valid practising certificate,” Mr Fernandez said.
In response, DPP Soh stated that the prosecution would not disclose the correspondence as it contained official communications between agencies, revealing internal government procedures.
He emphasized that Lim had already been charged with strict liability offences based on attending court without a valid practising certificate, clarifying that this wasn’t an inquiry into other cases.
“They are free to file a criminal motion and the prosecution will vigorously fight it,” said DPP Soh.
After the prosecution concluded its case, Mr Fernandez informed the court of the defence’s intention to seek an eight-week adjournment to file written submissions for the “no case to answer” plea and the criminal motion concerning the correspondence between the Supreme Court registrar and AGC.
The prosecution argued for a shorter time frame, leading the judge to grant the defence five weeks to file submissions and an additional two weeks for both sides to submit reply submissions.
Mr Lim displeased with the prosecution’s non-disclosure of Registrar-AGC correspondence
Commenting on his trial on Thursday via Facebook, Mr Lim expressed dissatisfaction with the Prosecution’s refusal to disclose correspondence between the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the AGC.
“But when my lawyer asked for production of the relevant correspondence, the Prosecution refused to disclose them.”
“I find the Prosecution’s stance absolutely outrageous! I have asked Mr Fernandez to do the necessary to protect my legal rights and to get those correspondence.,” Mr Lim added.
The Court adjourned proceedings until after 15 February to facilitate submissions from both parties.
Lim Tean pleads not guilty against charges of alleged legal practice without certificate
Lim Tean is accused of representing clients in court on 32 occasions and preparing legal documents for court proceedings on 32 occasions within the period of 1 April 2021 to 9 June 2021, when he did not possess a valid PC.
This lapse of about two months occurred after the expiration of Lim’s previous PC and before its renewal.
According to the Singapore Courts website, These certificates are renewed annually for each practice year, running from 1 April to 31 March of the following year.
On Wednesday, Lim’s defence counsel cross-examined a former assistant director at the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc), Ms Rejini Raman, regarding her alleged advice to Lim that purportedly “emboldened” him to appear in court despite lacking his practising certificate.
According to the prosecution’s case, Lim acquired his certificate on 10 June 2021, missing both deadlines stipulated for the renewal process.
He requested “an ad hoc favour” from Ms Regini to waive his CPD point requirement, as he had “totally overlooked it”.
In a text message Lim sent to Ms Rejini, he mentioned applying for the CPD points waiver and asked: “Can I still appear in court because I have hearings”.
In response, Ms Rejini said: “Yes, you can,” and advised Lim to inform the judge about awaiting waiver approval before applying for his PC for the new practice year.
Lim’s defence counsel stressed that Lim had indeed taken steps to renew his PC based on guidance from the Assistant Director, Compliance, of the Law Society.
It is said that whenever Lim appeared in court, he purportedly informed the judge about the pending status of his PC application, the lawyer told the court.
Lim, commenting on his trial on Wednesday via Facebook, said that in his 32 years as a lawyer, he had never encountered a situation where an accused does not know the identity of the informant who filed the complaint against him.
Slapped with a total of seven charges
Lim was called as a Barrister-at-Law to the Bar of England and Wales in 1989 and to the Singapore Bar in 1991 as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court.
He faced legal charges on 12 May last year, including criminal breach of trust, stalking a former employee, and practising law without a valid certificate.
He was accused of purportedly misappropriating S$30,000 entrusted to him between 14 November 2019 and 4 December 2019.
This sum was reportedly part of a settlement awarded to Lim’s former client in a civil suit involving motor injury.
During 2020, investigations were conducted regarding the aforementioned accusations of misconduct and illegal stalking.
In October 2020, Lim was arrested as he allegedly failed to comply with a police notice requesting his attendance for a compulsory interview related to the ongoing investigations into his purported offences, as stated by the SPF.
Attempting to halt the police probe, Lim took his case to the High Court. However, his application was dismissed, and he was directed to cover legal costs.
The stalking accusation arose from allegations of harassing a former employee at Lim’s law firm in 2020.
Law enforcement authorities mentioned that the employee provided them with text messages exchanged between herself and Lim.
During the period between April and May 2020, Lim is accused of having sent numerous flirtatious text messages to the employee repeatedly, which reportedly caused distress to her, as outlined in the charge sheets.
Additionally, Lim also faces three charges of being an unauthorised person who acted as an advocate or solicitor.
He is suspected of engaging in the commencement, continuation, or defence of court proceedings for clients on 32 occasions spanning from April 1, 2021, to June 4, 2021.
In September 2022, Lim was handed another two new criminal charges. He was accused of misappropriating S$5,500 paid by AXA Insurance as settlement monies to a person named Christianne Rameshwaran.
He was also charged with refusing to answer questions posed to him by an officer from the police’s Commercial Affairs Department on 10 June 2022.
On 22 Aug, the court found Lim guilty of grossly improper conduct concerning the mishandling of the S$30,000 belonging to his former client.
If convicted of unlawful stalking, Lim could face imprisonment for up to 12 months, a fine of up to S$5,000, or both.
Those found guilty of criminal breach of trust as an attorney may face life imprisonment, a maximum of 20 years, or a fine.
Moreover, practising law without a valid certificate could result in a prison term of up to six months, a fine of up to S$25,000, or both.
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