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Board views actions of lawyer duo seriously
Published on: Thursday, July 19, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Wednesday's Daily Express' front page report about two local lawyers who took advantage of the situation of families of Sabahans jailed in Japan for drugs has drawn the concern of the Sabah Advocates Disciplinary Board who said they can be penalised or punished, if found guilty of misconduct.

Its Chairman Datuk Douglas Primus said any lawyer found guilty of misconduct could be struck off the roll, suspended from practice, ordered to pay a fine, reprimanded or have costs awarded against him.

"Sabah Advocates Disciplinary Board is concerned with the report. Lawyers are subject for the purposes of all disciplinary actions to the control of the Disciplinary Board. Any lawyer who has been found guilty of any misconduct shall be liable to any one or more of the penalties or punishments.

"In addition, the Disciplinary Board may in appropriate cases make an order of restitution by the lawyer of the complainant's monies if it is established that such monies were or are held by the lawyer in his professional capacity and the complainant is entitled to the return of such monies," he said in a statement.

The paper reported on Wednesday that seven Sabahans, six of them women, have landed themselves in jail in Japan after claiming to have been duped by an Iranian and his Sabahan woman accomplice, to become drug mules.

Three of them received jail terms ranging between eight to 10 years. Two Sabahan lawyers were said to have offered their services to the victims' families despite knowing fully well that they could not represent any of the victims in Japan.

The family of one of the women who paid RM70,000 legal fees to the lawyer had to raise the money through friends and relatives without realising that Sabah lawyers were not allowed to appear in court in Japan.

When the lawyer concerned returned from Japan without success in securing her release, her family felt cheated.

The same lawyer was said to have tried and failed to convince the family to come up with another RM70,000 for a second trip.

Another lawyer was said to have offered his services for RM50,000 but by then the families had become wiser.

Primus explained that the Disciplinary Board was created as an independent statutory body as a result of the recent amendments to the Advocates Ordinance pursuant to the Advocates Ordinance (Sabah) Amendment Act 2016 which came into operation on 1 July 2017.

The board, he said, consists of a chairman who is either a retired Judge of the High Court or qualified to be a Judge, the President of the Sabah Law Society or the Vice President as his alternate and eight (8) advocates all of whom are not less than seven years' standing.

To date, the board has already made decisions against lawyers and has ordered suspensions and/or fines to that effect, added Primus.

He further explained that the procedure for lodging a complaint is provided by the Advocates (Disciplinary Proceedings) (Procedure) Rules 2018.

"A reasonable opportunity is provided to the lawyer to be heard to give an explanation of the complaint made.

Not all cases result in a finding against a lawyer. In the event that there are any complaints for misconduct against any lawyers in the State of Sabah, such complaints may be directed to discipline@sabahlawsociety.org," he said.

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