Ravi regrets releasing court papers to media

SINGAPORE - A month after insisting he would "vigorously defend" an accusation of misconduct, activist lawyer M. Ravi now regrets releasing court documents to the media prematurely.

He also apologised "sincerely" yesterday for certain statements he made which could have prejudiced several of the cases he was handling.

However, it is not immediately clear whether his contrition will stave off disciplinary proceedings, after a complaint of professional misconduct was made to the Law Society in January by the Attorney-General.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) declined to comment on Mr Ravi's apology yesterday.

The complaint involved four cases brought against the Attorney-General, including a bid by a gay man who wanted the court to ban workplace discrimination of gay men. The other three were judicial reviews.

The complaint dealt with two issues - the first of which was how Mr Ravi released court papers to the media through e-mail before they were served on the AGC.

The second was that in press statements sent to the media by e-mail, the lawyer included remarks which the Attorney-General said made serious allegations and included the use of inflammatory language.

For instance, in a case of a convict who died in prison due to the negligence of a senior prison officer, Mr Ravi used the word "slain" in the heading of his media statement. This implied that the inmate was deliberately and brutally killed by prison guards, the Attorney-General complained.

In another case involving a condemned drug trafficker, his statement alleged that the Central Narcotics Bureau had knowingly failed to follow up on information his client had provided and which could have spared him the gallows.

The AGC said in its January complaint that these statements were calculated to interfere with fair proceedings by prejudicing the cases in the minds of the public.

Two months later, in March, Mr Ravi released to the media details of the Attorney-General's complaint, saying he would "vigorously defend his position both locally and internationally".

Under the Legal Profession Act, disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are confidential until the disciplinary tribunal releases its report.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi reversed his stand.

He said that having considered the points raised by the AGC, he accepted its position and "unreservedly and unconditionally" withdrew all the statements that it had complained about in its letter to the Law Society. Mr Ravi, 45, a lawyer since 1996, said it was never his intention to gain an unfair advantage or to interfere in the conduct of fair proceedings.

"I do sincerely apologise to the persons affected by my releasing the court documents and statements... to the media."


This article was published on May 1 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.