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Law Society calls for lawyer Samuel Seow to be struck off over 2018 workplace abuse incidents

SINGAPORE — The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) on Monday (Feb 28) urged the Court of Three Judges to have entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow Theng Beng struck off over his misconduct in 2018, when he physically and verbally abused his employees.

Lawyer Samuel Seow at the State Courts in June 2021.

Lawyer Samuel Seow at the State Courts in June 2021.

SINGAPORE — The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) on Monday (Feb 28) urged the Court of Three Judges to have entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow Theng Beng struck off over his misconduct in 2018, when he physically and verbally abused his employees.

LawSoc's lead counsel Dinesh Dhillon said that Seow's behaviour, as a senior lawyer of some 19 years' standing at the time, "brings grave dishonour to the bar".

He added that Seow not only showed "no remorse", he also conducted interviews with the media downplaying the incidents and placed the incidents into the public eye with his only concern being "his own reputation".

The Court of Three Judges is the highest disciplinary body to deal with lawyers' misconduct. Monday's hearing comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Justice Steven Chong and Justice Andrew Phang. They reserved judgement on what sanctions to impose on Seow and will release the verdict at a later date.

All three judges presiding over Monday's hearing gave comments frowning upon Seow's behaviour, with Justice Phang saying that he has "not seen or heard something like this ever" during his years as a lawyer.

Seow, who is also facing pending criminal charges in the State Courts over the same incidents, pleaded guilty to the eight charges brought against him by LawSoc for physically and verbally abusing three of his employees in March and April 2018.

Footage of the incident, at Seow's then-law firm along South Bridge Road on April 17 in 2018, was leaked online and went viral.

It showed Seow reprimanding artiste and Beam Artistes events executive Rachel Kang Pei Shan, before forcefully poking her forehead with his finger.

He then pushed a file Ms Kang was holding, causing her to stagger back. After this, he began questioning his niece, Ms Brenda Kong Shin Ying, who was working for him at the time, about where another employee was.

In the ensuing fracas, he advanced on Ms Kong and pushed her, while another employee tried to restrain him. Seow then broke free and slapped his niece several times on her cheeks and head.

He later turned on employee Serene Tan, who intervened to pull him away, and shouted "you stop it" while hitting Ms Tan on her arm.

An audio recording of Seow's assault against Ms Kong was captured on her phone, and a video of the attack was uploaded on YouTube a year after the incident.

'UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT'

On Monday, Mr Dhillon pushed for Seow to be struck off, saying that his conduct was "unacceptable" regardless of an employee's competence.

Seow screamed at one of the victims and threw files, boxes and a metal stapler at her, even threatening to kill her on one occasion.

At the time of the incident, he was a senior member of the bar, and it was not a one-off incident but "a pattern of unacceptable behaviour over time", Mr Dhillon said.

He called Seow's lack of remorse particularly aggravating, pointing to how he downplayed the incident by blaming the victim and conducting interviews with the media saying that he was slapped first. 

Mr Dhillon urged the court to give no weight to the defence's psychiatric evidence, which stated that Seow was suffering from adjustment disorder at the time.

Seow saw the psychiatrist only a year after the incident, and the report provides "very little assistance" since it did not explain what adjustment disorder is and how it contributed to Seow's behaviour, he said.

On top of this, the psychiatric report seems to be based on a version of events inconsistent with the facts and video evidence, the lead counsel added.

The version of events that Seow gave to his psychiatrist portrayed himself as a victim of conspiracy, something that LawSoc completely rejects. Instead, it is the reputation of the profession that has been damaged by Seow's wrongdoings, Mr Dhillon said.

He also said this case is "extremely egregious" and warrants a striking off, adding that Seow has repeatedly abused the dominance that he exercised over his employees.

'UNDER STRESS'

Seow's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said his client accepts that he has fallen short of the ideals required of the law profession and is ready to accept the necessary consequences.

He highlighted that Seow was "under stress" at the time and has since taken active steps such as continuing to see his psychiatrist and taking his medication.

Chief Justice Menon stopped Mr Thuraisingam after he repeated the point about stress. He said: "Speaking for myself, I just want to tell you that that doesn't cut ice. Because every solicitor... is under stress."

Justice Chong then questioned Mr Thuraisingam on what he thought the appropriate sanction should be. "I saw the video. He was out of control," Justice Chong added.

Mr Thuraisingam said that this was "just one incident in 19 years" and asked if a striking out would be justified based on "this bad patch he went through". 

He also said that there were no punches thrown, but that Seow was "trying to slap someone".

"It was a lot of drama and a few slaps," the lawyer added.

Chief Justice Menon said that this narrative did not fit with what Seow did.

Justice Phang then said he was not sure that what Mr Thuraisingam was saying "is actually helping or if it's emblematic of this lack of remorse".

After heaving a sigh, he added: "I've not seen or heard something like this ever, during (the) years I've been a lawyer... I think... you're trying to justify something that really cannot be justified."

Mr Thuraisingam said that Seow is still practising as a lawyer.

Seow pleaded guilty to his criminal charges in 2020, but a Newton hearing is now under way to settle issues on whether and when he had a mental condition. He is yet to be sentenced by the district court. CNA

For more reports like this, visit cna.asia.

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Samuel Seow Law Society of Singapore Court of Three Judges lawyer assault court

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