Blogger Roy Ngerng wants to get a Queen's Counsel (QC) to represent him in a hearing on damages he must pay for defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his lawyer George Hwang has said.
Mr Hwang declined to give further details of Mr Ngerng's intended move, which was raised yesterday at a closed-door court session on administrative matters, ahead of a High Court hearing scheduled for July to assess the amount of damages.
But it is understood that possible dates for Mr Ngerng to argue his case for a QC were discussed at yesterday's pre-trial conference.
Under Singapore's Legal Profession Act, top-tier counsel like QCs can appear in court when certain conditions are met.
One is that the QC has special qualifications or experience for the case at hand.
The court will also look into factors such as whether local senior counsel are available for the case, and whether there is a need to engage the services of a foreign legal counsel.
Attempts to engage QCs for cases in Singapore have often not been successful in the last 10 years.
In 2007, the High Court rejected one such application by the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review. The Hong Kong-based magazine wanted to use a QC in a defamation suit brought against it by PM Lee and the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was then Minister Mentor.
More recently, banker Deepak Sharma tried unsuccessfully to get a QC to represent him against two lawyers. He had accused them of overcharging for work they did in representing the Singapore Medical Council against his wife, Dr Susan Lim, in disciplinary and court proceedings.
Last year, Mr Ngerng was found to have defamed PM Lee by suggesting in one of his blog posts that PM Lee had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.
He has already paid PM Lee $29,000 in legal fees and related expenses, as ruled by the High Court. A hearing to assess the amount of damages he needs to pay the Prime Minister will be held next month.
The case has seen Mr Ngerng change lawyers a few times.
Initially, he was represented by Mr M. Ravi. However, Mr Ravi was suspended in mid-February from practising law, following concerns about his mental health.
Mr Eugene Thuraisingam took up the case, and he was replaced in March by Mr Hwang.
This article was first published on June 5, 2015.
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