20 February 2018
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Lawyer rapped in Saudi envoy's failed Court of Appeal bid

Straits Times
09 Feb 2018
Selina Lum

'Self-evident' that questions not those of law of public interest; lawyer ordered to pay costs of $5k

A Saudi Arabian diplomat, who is in jail for groping a hotel intern, yesterday failed to take his case to the Court of Appeal, while his lawyer was ordered to personally pay costs of $5,000 for an "improper and unreasonable" application.

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 40, was sentenced to 26 months and a week's jail and four strokes of the cane in February last year for molesting a 20-year-old employee at a Sentosa hotel while he was here on holiday with his family.

His appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed by the High Court in July. He started serving his jail term on Aug 11.

Despite exhausting his avenues of appeal, he filed an application for leave to refer three questions to the Court of Appeal, in a procedure reserved for questions of law of public interest. The first question related to the issue of a lawyer who acts contrary to his client's instructions. The second and third dealt with whether expert opinion was necessary to determine the state of mind of an alleged victim of molestation.

Yesterday, a three-judge Court of Appeal dismissed his application, saying it was "self-evident" that all his questions were questions of fact, and not questions of law of public interest.

Alzahrani's lawyer Peter Pang was also rebuked for proceeding with the case just because his client and the Saudi Arabian Embassy had insisted on doing so. Mr Pang had argued that his client was not given a fair trial because his previous lawyer had "made an error".

But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said: "If counsel didn't do his job properly, the remedy lies elsewhere. You can't come here and say this is a question of law."

Deputy public prosecutors Hay Hung Chun and Kenny Yang argued that the application was a blatant abuse of process and "back-door appeal" under the guise of referring questions of law of public interest to the apex court.

The prosecutors sought costs of $5,000 against Mr Pang personally, saying that he had filed a "frivolous" application even though it was clear that it was "devoid of merit". The sum will be forwarded to the Law Society, they said.

Chief Justice Menon pointed out to Mr Pang that last November, when Alzahrani tried to ask the High Court to release him from jail pending the Court of Appeal hearing, the judge had already cautioned him that these were not questions of law. Mr Pang replied that he proceeded "because of the way I had been instructed".

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.