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Unmasked marvel in pro bono legal work

Unmasked marvel in pro bono legal work

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 22 Feb 2021
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was conferred the Pro Bono Ambassador Award 2020 last month by Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran on behalf of the society and the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office.

He has been dubbed an "unmasked marvel" during the Covid-19 pandemic as others are struck by how he can devote so much time and commitment to doing cases pro bono.

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was conferred the Pro Bono Ambassador Award 2020 last month by Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran on behalf of the society and the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office.

The annual recognition is given by the Council of the Law Society to an individual for his established track record of providing pro bono services for at least five years.

Past award recipients include Senior Counsel (SC) Vijayendran, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan and Senior Counsel George Lim.

SC Vijayendran said: "We marvel at how you can devote so much time and commitment to pro bono.

"We hope you will continue to inspire young lawyers by example as the role model in the same way that you looked upon others as a role model in your younger days."

Sharing his experiences in a video interview with the Law Society president to mark the event, Mr Thuraisingam said he has always been "passionate about access to justice" throughout his years of practice.

"I think justice means little if your man in the street cannot get representation from good lawyers who are passionate about their cases and want to do the best for them," he said.

"As lawyers, we are privileged to have a particular set of tools, particular knowledge that helps not just the litigant but also the court and the prosecution to assist all parties to get the best possible and fair outcome of the proceedings."

Mr Thuraisingam added that even for him as a fairly experienced criminal lawyer, some of the facts in cases "can be quite shocking and atrocious and it is difficult to come to court to know that this is the person you're defending".

He cited one particular case where he acted for a parent whose abuse with his wife ended in the death of their four-year-old son.

"It is difficult to stand up and defend such an accused person, but you come to a stage where you realise that for the whole process to work and arrive at a fair outcome, regardless of what he has done, he deserves a fair process which is available to everybody under the law," the lawyer said.

"Your role is to put forward his case in a cogent manner such that the judge and the prosecution understand the full facts and then can come to a just decision whatever it may be."

Mr Thuraisingam added that there are other kinds of cases, such as those involving drug and come with capital punishment, that raised different concerns.

"Sometimes, if you lose a case like that, you start to second-guess if the outcome would be different if you took a different approach.

"That is something which troubles and can affect you but you just have to learn to move on to the next case."

The firm, Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, in conjunction with its ninth anniversary this year and in partnership with the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office, will be organising a month-long virtual fund-raising run in April.

The 10 murder and drug trafficking cases that the firm took up last year pro bono, or under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital offences, included notable ones such as that of Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman.

Ridzuan and his wife were jointly charged with murdering their child. They splashed hot water on the boy on four occasions in 2016 and took him to hospital some seven hours after he collapsed following the last incident.

The boy died from the injuries.

The High Court last year acquitted the couple of the original murder charge and instead convicted both of causing grievous hurt by dangerous means for the acts of scalding.

Last July, Ridzuan , 28, was given 27 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane. His wife, Azlin Arujunah, 28, was also sentenced to 27 years' jail, with an additional one-year term in lieu of caning.

The prosecution is appealing against the sentence and this is due to be heard in May, said Mr Thuraisingam, who, together with lawyer Syazana Yahya, represented Ridzuan.

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


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