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Remaining 4 law exam cheats withdraw Bar applications, undertake not to reapply for up to 3 years

SINGAPORE — The last four law graduates who cheated during their 2020 Bar exams in a high-profile case withdrew their applications to be called to the Bar, and were instructed to undertake to not to submit fresh applications for periods of time ranging between nine months to three years.

Remaining 4 law exam cheats withdraw Bar applications, undertake not to reapply for up to 3 years
  • The remaining four law trainees caught cheating during their 2020 Bar exams withdrew their applications to be called to the Bar
  • They also had to undertake not to submit fresh applications for periods ranging between nine months and three years
  • Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the period was intended to give them time to work on their character flaws

SINGAPORE — The last four law graduates who cheated during their 2020 Bar examinations withdrew their applications to be called to the Bar on Friday (Aug 26).

They also had to undertake not to submit fresh applications for periods ranging between nine months and three years. This is intended to give them the time to work on their character flaws, before they could be assessed for their suitability to practise in the legal profession, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

While delivering his brief grounds of judgement at the end of a High Court hearing which lasted for four hours, CJ Menon reiterated the principle he had set out in an earlier case — that of Mr Leon Tay Quan Li — that the intent of the time gap set by the court was rehabilitation and not punitive.

Mr Tay was the first of 11 lawyer trainees whose applications to the Bar had been withdrawn following the cheating cases.

In arriving at his judgement on Friday, CJ Menon said he looked at various factors, including the circumstances of the cheating, the trainees' conduct during the course of investigation and any indications of remorse.

Of the four candidates who withdrew their applications on Friday, 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.

The Attorney-General's Chambers had sought a period of three to four years while the Law Society asked for a period of one-and-a-half to three years.


CJ Menon first addressed the case of Mr Wong, who was found to have cheated in one paper.

Mr Wong at first did not communicate with his peers during the examination. However, after submitting his answer script, he exchanged it with another candidate who had also submitted hers.

Realising that he had missed out on one part of a question and that there was still time to reupload an answer, he proceeded to take the relevant portion of that candidate’s answer, pasted it into his script and uploaded the edited copy. The other candidate was not aware he had done this.

While CJ Menon noted that Mr Wong was quick to confess about his misconduct during investigations, he did not mention it during his application submission to the Bar.

Candidates are required to disclose, among other things, if actions were being taken against them for any cheating or plagiarism case.

Mr Wong said in his affidavit that he did not make the disclosure as “he was frightened by the prospect of his legal days ending” and “could not find the courage” to mention his cheating incident again.

This points to a lack of candour on his part when facing up to difficult circumstances, said CJ Menon, and showed that Mr Wong seemed to have not wanted to bring up the matter in hopes that the other stakeholders would not raise them either.

This is in addition to the cheating incident itself, which showed how when pressed against the wall, Mr Ong was willing to appropriate another person’s work as his own, indicating a “serious defect of character”.


Ms Ong had first cheated for her mediation examination paper, by reaching out to Mr Lim via instant messaging platform Discord for his answers, to which he acceded.

“Unbitten the first time, Ms Ong seemed twice emboldened,” said CJ Menon, before outlining how the candidate had contacted Mr Lim and Ms Au for answers for the ethics paper afterwards.

When confronted during the investigation, Ms Ong initially denied cheating and subsequently did not volunteer information when not asked specifically about them.

For example, when she was questioned about her cheating conduct for the ethics paper, she did not mention she had similarly done so for the earlier mediation paper.

In deciding the barring period, CJ Menon agreed with Mr Lim of LawSoc that Ms Ong had displayed character issues of deeper concern than Mr Wong, given that she had cheated for more papers and that she had initially denied her wrongdoing.

However, the judge acknowledged it did not involve elements of collusion as seen in Mr Tay’s case, and therefore a period of three years before she is allowed to reapply to the Bar would suffice. Mr Tay was barred from reapplying for five years.


As for Mr Lim and Ms Au who had provided their answers to Ms Ong, CJ Menon said their actions were mainly to oblige Ms Ong and “acceding to improper requests”.

This has revealed “a flaw of character of a different sort”, by helping a colleague to cheat while they themselves did not do so.

One who asks for illegitimate help in an examination is clearly more culpable than "one who gives it in the spur of the moment" in the context of the pressures in an examination, said the chief justice.

He also took into account that they had confessed early.

Rounding up his grounds of judgement, CJ Menon noted that since the incident, some of the candidates had done volunteer work such as aiding in pro bono cases, and expressed hope they would continue with those acts and “find ways to resolve the character issues” that the cheating incident had revealed.

The four individuals on Friday were part of 11 trainee lawyers who were caught cheating in the 2020 Bar examinations.

They first failed the said examinations and subsequently passed after retaking the papers.

Mr Tay’s application was the first to be withdrawn in May, while the applications of six others were withdrawn on Aug 15.

Related topics

lawyers cheating Bar exam chief justice court

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