Blackstone silk rebuffed in bid to fight Singapore JR battle

Blackstone Chambers silk Michael Fordham QC has failed to gain temporary admission to Singapore’s courts after a judge ruled he did not meet the criteria required for the ad hoc admission of foreign counsel.

Fordham had asked the High Court of Singapore for permission to launch a judicial review for retired banker Deepak Sharma into a decision made by a Law Society of Singapore review committee (22 July 2014).

A 2012 amendment to Singapore’s Legal Profession Act has made it easier for foreign counsel to apply for ad hoc admission to the city-state’s courts, so long as they can demonstrate that they have “special qualifications or experience for the purpose of the case”.

However, judge Steven Chong disputed Sharma’s claim that there was a lack of suitable counsel in Singapore to argue the case, adding that he did not believe it would be reasonable to admit Fordham for the matter.

This is the second time since the act was amended that a Blackstone silk has been refused ad hoc admission to Singapore’s courts.

Last year Michael Beloff QC was granted permission by the city-state’s High Court to represent nTan Corporate Advisory as it sought to set aside a previous Court of Appeal decision. However, in May this year the appeal court overturned that decision.

Sharma turned to judicial review specialist Fordham, who wrote the Judicial Review Handbook and co-edits the quarterly journal Judicial Review, after claiming that he could not find a local senior counsel to take on his case.

The dispute, which relates to Sharma’s wife, Singaporean surgeon Susan Lim, arose after Lim was accused of overcharging and found guilty of professional misconduct by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

Having lost an appeal into the decision, Lim was ordered to pay the SMC’s legal costs. The SMC had been represented in that matter by WongPartnership, but Sharma disputed their total bill of just over S$1m.

The Law Society of Singapore subsequently dismissed a complaint from Sharma relating to the bill and it is this decision he is seeking a judicial review on.

In his ruling judge Chong stated that Sharma could still engage Fordham to compile his case, but that a local counsel would have to present it to the court.