Skip to main content



Bar exam cheats should ‘look inwards’, seek guidance from mentors, says Chief Justice who hopes for closure to episode

SINGAPORE — Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Monday (Sept 26) urged 11 law graduates who cheated during their 2020 Bar examinations to practise “careful, critical and constant reflection”, while expressing his hopes that the recent controversy has come to an end.

Young lawyers arriving at court.

Young lawyers arriving at court.

  • A total of 11 law graduates have withdrawn their applications to be called to the Singapore Bar
  • They were caught cheating in Part B of the Bar examinations in 2020
  • In a written judgement, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon urged them to reflect on their actions and take time to grow
  • They should also turn to their law mentors to guide them, he said

SINGAPORE — Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Monday (Sept 26) urged 11 law graduates who cheated during their 2020 Bar examinations to practise “careful, critical and constant reflection”, while expressing his hopes that the recent controversy has come to an end.

They should also turn to their mentors in the law profession for guidance, as well as understand the importance of "looking inwards”, the country’s top judge wrote in his full grounds of decision concerning four candidates who withdrew their applications to be called to the Bar last month.

The remaining seven law trainees also withdrew their applications in earlier court hearings.

The high-profile case first surfaced in April, with another High Court judge then choosing to publicly name several of them shortly afterwards.

All 11 candidates were caught cheating at Part B of the Bar exams, which graduates have to pass in order to be qualified to practise law in Singapore.

It was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, like previous Part B exams, it was open-book, meaning that candidates were allowed to refer to notes and other materials.


In his written judgement released on Monday, Chief Justice Menon elaborated on his reasons behind allowing the last four exam cheats to withdraw their applications on Aug 26.

He had also ordered them to undertake not to submit fresh Bar applications for certain periods of time.

Ms Joleen Ong Jia Yi was given the stiffest sanction — she cannot reapply to the Bar for three years.

Mr Sean Wong Wai Loong was barred for two years, Mr Brandon Lim Zi Yi for one year and Ms Annabelle Au for nine months.

Ms Ong first cheated in her Mediation Advocacy exam paper after reaching out to Mr Lim for his answers through an instant messaging channel. Ms Au also provided answers to Ms Ong for an ethics paper.

The trio belonged to the same study group and focused on preparing “stock answers” that they could copy and paste into their answer scripts. They also admitted to communicating during some papers, in breach of the exam rules.

Chief Justice Menon noted that Ms Ong was the “sole trigger” for the “wrongful communications”, and also the only person who benefitted.

All three were allowed to sit for both papers again last year and passed them.

Chief Justice Menon further noted that Ms Ong was not immediately cooperative with investigations by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (Sile), at first denying her communications with her friends.

He said: “I found that her initial lack of candour was dishonest and revealing of a character defect.

"This was in stark contrast with the conduct of her peers, Ms Au and — in particular — Mr Lim. They were both forthright from the very outset of their dealings with Sile.”

As for Mr Wong, he cheated in his Mediation Advocacy paper and failed to mention it during his initial application submission to the Bar.

Chief Justice Menon noted that Mr Wong gave no explanation for his non-disclosure at first, then claimed that it was because he genuinely believed Sile had forgiven him for cheating.

To his credit, Mr Wong quickly admitted his misconduct to Sile, Chief Justice Menon said.

“In my judgement, Mr Wong’s non-disclosure was more aptly seen as a very bad misjudgement brought about by his misguided and naive wishful thinking. However, this did not excuse his omission.” 

Wishful thinking was not a good reason to hide his actions. This also pointed to a “lack of candour, which all advocates and solicitors — or applicants seeking to become advocates and solicitors — must strive to avoid”, he added.

He also found it troubling that Mr Wong was willing to copy another person’s work without even asking for permission, which pointed to a lack of respect or regard for others.


In starting and ending his judgement, Chief Justice Menon gave some advice to the candidates.

The time they have before reapplying to the Bar should be “a time for reflection, learning and growth", he said.

“They must not allow themselves to look at these months or years as dues to be paid for mere lapses in judgement or, worse, ‘getting caught’.

“Nor should they resign themselves to thinking about any good work they do during this time as little more than the unavoidable tasks that will need to be carried out in the accumulation of tangible markers of character growth.”

Chief Justice Menon added that even though they will inevitably need to prove that their character has improved, it is far more important to look inwards and approach the time “with a sincere desire to learn and be transformed”.

In regards to Mr Wong and Ms Ong, he said that they “need to learn, above all, that there is far greater honour and dignity in accepting rightful failure than in grasping for undeserved success”.

Mr Lim and Ms Au should learn not to help others if they have to sacrifice their integrity and principles.

“They should do their best to engage in consistent reflection, but also turn to mentors in the profession for guidance. Difficult lessons, especially about oneself, need to be learnt from within, but they do not need to be learnt alone,” Chief Justice Menon added.

Related topics

court Bar exam cheat lawyer Sundaresh Menon graduate

Read more of the latest in




Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.