Errant solicitors found guilty of misconduct will be punished and any degradation of standards is not acceptable said Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong Wan Oon at the opening of the Legal Year 2023 at the Supreme Court yesterday.
He underlined the need for a strong message to be sent by the legal fraternity while emphasising the court’s position on such misconduct. The chief justice spoke about a recent case where the dishonesty and deceit by the solicitor was so serious that he was disbarred.
The gathering of judiciary and the rest of the legal fraternity was held after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.
The gathering was welcomed with a guard of honour parade by the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), which was inspected by the Chief Justice.
The event saw an address by the Chief Justice and then replies from Attorney General Dato Seri Paduka Haji Ahmad bin Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa and Brunei Darussalam Law Society President Haji Mansur bin Dato Paduka Dr Haji Latif representing members of the legal fraternity in private practice.
Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong said online hearing was adopted in the previous years and it is now a permanent feature of the courts with 3,542 cases conducted online between August 2021 and October 2022. He said online hearing is here to stay and reminded law practitioners to keep abreast with digital technologies.
The Chief Justice said the number of civil appeal cases filed in the Court of Appeal increased significantly, showing the return of civil and commercial litigation following the easing of restrictions and re-opening of the economy.
He added that 100 per cent of judgements for civil trials in the High Court were delivered between one to three months from the close of submissions.
Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong said the Subordinate Courts docketed 1,056 criminal cases in 2022, an increase from the previous year’s 880, while criminal cases on appeal to the High Court from the Subordinate Courts also saw an increase in the same period.
The Chief Justice said the clearance rate of criminal trials in the Magistrate’s Court stands at 76.8 per cent while 77 per cent of judgements were delivered within one to three months from the close of submissions.
Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong said the Law Society reported that 23 complaints were heard by the Inquiry Committee between 2018 and 2022 where three were investigated by the Disciplinary Committee.
Meanwhile, the event saw attendance by Special Advisor to His Majesty and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa bin Pehin Datu Perdana Manteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Ibrahim; Chief Syar’ie Judge Pehin Orang Kaya Paduka Seri Utama Dato Paduka Seri Setia Haji Awang Salim bin Haji Besar; Acting Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Paduka Haji Sufian bin Haji Sabtu; and Deputy Minister (Civil Service Governance) at the PMO Dato Seri Paduka Mohd Riza bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos.
Ambassadors and high commissioners, senior government officials, members of the judiciary from the civil and Syariah courts, Attorney General’s Chambers, Law Society and members of government enforcement agencies were also present at the gathering.