Kovan double murder: High Court dismisses ex-cop’s appeal for his lawyers to face disciplinary tribunal
The inquiry committee’s report and the LawSoc’s subsequent decision were sound and that there was “no prima facie case of ethical breach or other misconduct” by Iskandar’s lawyers that warranted a formal investigation by a disciplinary tribunal: Justice Valerie Thean
A former police officer, who dominated headlines for a shocking double murder in 2013, has failed in asking the High Court to review a decision by the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc).
Iskandar Rahmat, now 40 years old, lodged a complaint to the LawSoc against the six defence lawyers who represented him during his murder trial.
The LawSoc dismissed the ex-investigation officer’s complaint earlier this year, after an inquiry committee recommended that no formal investigation into the case was necessary.
Iskandar then filed a review of the decision under the Legal Profession Act.
Justice Valerie Thean threw out his application on Thursday (Oct 10) during a hearing in chambers.
In her oral grounds of decision, she ruled that the inquiry committee’s report and the LawSoc’s subsequent decision were sound and that there was “no prima facie case of ethical breach or other misconduct” by Iskandar’s lawyers that warranted a formal investigation by a disciplinary tribunal.
The judge noted that with hindsight, while the lawyers could have taken more comprehensive notes, that in itself was not enough to establish any breach or misconduct.
When contacted, the LawSoc said that it would not be commenting on the matter.
WHAT ISKANDAR DID
Iskandar — a 14-year veteran of the police force — has been on death row since 2017, after failing in his appeal against the death sentence for killing a car workshop owner and the man’s son on July 10, 2013.
Passers-by watched in horror as Iskandar, while fleeing in a Toyota Camry along Upper Serangoon Road, dragged Tan Chee Heong, then 42, under the car.
The bloody trail led back to a house on Hillside Drive — about 1km away — where the body of his father, Tan Boon Sin, 67, lay with multiple stab wounds.
After a 54-hour manhunt, Iskandar was arrested in Johor Baru, Malaysia.
He had earlier hatched a plan to rob the older Tan of money kept in a safe deposit box at Certis Cisco, in order to avert a possible sacking over his “financial embarrassment”.
He carried out his scheme a day before a deadline to make a S$50,000 lump-sum payment to clear his S$65,000 bank debt.
In convicting Iskandar in 2015, the High Court rejected his defence that he had intended to rob and run but was forced to defend himself against a knife-wielding Tan Boon Sin and that the older man died from his injuries during the scuffle.
The apex court ruled in February 2017 that Iskandar had turned aggressive and intended to cause death.
Iskandar filed a clemency plea to President Halimah Yacob last year. It was rejected in July, effectively condemning him to hang for his crime.
COMPLAINTS TO LAWSOC
Iskandar made nine charges against his former team of trial lawyers, relating to when he killed his victims.
He was then represented by Mr Shashi Nathan, Ms Tania Chin, Mr Jeremy Pereira, Associate Professor Ferlin Jayatissa, Ms Sudha Nair and Mr Rajan Supramaniam.
The complaints were:
- They did not provide all photographs of the crime scene to him. The lawyers explained that all the relevant photos were provided and Iskandar could have easily asked the trial judge about any photos he wished to see.
- The lawyers did not study the photos sufficiently to verify the cash recovered at the scene. However, this was not relevant during the trial as the precise amount was not disputed.
- His family members were not called during the trial. The lawyers stated that Iskandar had instructed them not to call his family members and that they would not have been able to testify about the narrow timeframe when the victims were killed anyway.
- On the dispensation of various witnesses, such as the OCBC representative who testified about his financial difficulties. Justice Thean said that this did not seem relevant to his defence at trial.
- Failure to raise the issue of a baton found in Tan Boon Sin’s car. Justice Thean said that it was not relevant to the facts and circumstances of the deaths.
- Failure to carry out some instructions. The lawyers had discussed these notes with him and there was no contention that any particular note that was ignored would be relevant to his defence.
- Amendments made to the trial opening address. Justice Thean noted from the transcript of the trial that Iskandar’s arguments were made clear to the court.
- On the appointment of a defence psychiatrist, Dr Tommy Tan. The psychiatrist, however, did not think his report would be useful to the defence and it was ultimately not used in the trial.
- On the appointment of a defence pathologist. Justice Thean said that this was no longer relevant after the prosecution decided not to call their scene reconstruction expert, whose evidence the pathologist was supposed to refute.
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