I believe Ashley Liew's lawyer has misrepresented our case on his website. Here's how:
Disclaimer: I believe this is clear enough from the title, but for avoidance of doubt, this blog post is an expression of my personal opinion(s).
Ashley Liew’s defamation case against me is currently before the High Court on appeal. This piece I am writing is not to comment on the case. It is, however, to address Ashley’s lawyer's conduct in reporting this case to the public in what I feel has been a misrepresentation.
First things first, Ashley is represented by Mark Teng of That.Legal. They are friends from school in Anglo-Chinese Junior College.
That.Legal is a new law firm set up in March 2019 (a month before Ashley started proceedings against me). This is That.Legal’s (and Mark Teng’s) first big case, and as far as I can see on Google search results, That.Legal's only case of significance. It perhaps explains the firm’s over-the-top enthusiasm in blogging about every facet and development of this case.
That’s fine if they are doing it in a balanced and fair manner. The problem here is that they are not.
On 23rd September 2021, That.Legal published the following blog post: https://www.that.legal/blog/2021/9/23/ashley-liew-prevails-in-marathon-defamation-case-against-soh-rui-yong-to-the-tune-of-180000
Besides this seeming to be a premature celebration given that a High Court appeal was always an option for either party to dispute the judgment in the lower District Court, the piece asserted the following inaccuracies. I will list what they wrote and what my account is accordingly so readers can tell for themselves what really happened.
The Trial – Day 1
What That.Legal posted: “Day 1 of trial began with the cross-examination of Liew. Soh’s lawyer questioned Liew extensively about the events of that fateful day and about Liew’s Act of Fair Play. Soh’s goal was to prove that the Act of Fair Play did not occur and that Liew was lying. Unfortunately for Soh, Liew’s testimony was consistent throughout and try as he might, Soh was unable to find any flaws.
It also became apparent that Soh’s defamatory comments were “out of the blue” and “unprovoked”.”
My take: These assertions are not substantiated anywhere in this blog post and are hence nothing more than bare assertions. A number of inconsistencies and flaws in Ashley Liew’s account of events were indeed found on cross examination. Notably, his account on the stand was significantly different from what he had said on television at The 5 Show in 2015.
Even the District Judge Lee Li Choon noted that there were inconsistencies in Ashley’s evidence, but deemed the inconsistencies immaterial or stated it was due to foggy memories on the part of Ashley and his witnesses (which we are disputing on appeal). From Paragraph 96 of Judge Lee’s Judgment:
Judge Lee did not go as far as to say that there were NO inconsistencies in Ashley's evidence. There is no finding by the Court that Ashley’s evidence was unblemished. All the inconsistencies in Ashley’s evidence were presented in our closing arguments and will be surfaced again on appeal. In my opinion, That.Legal has not offered a notable explanation for this discrepancy in accounts because they themselves are unable to explain it.
The Trial – Day 2
What That.Legal posted: "However, no such inconsistencies were found in Liew’s testimony, and he continued to maintain that it was a “fact” that “[he] slowed down”."
My take: Again, unsubstantiated but presented as fact. Bare assertion.
The Trial – Day 4
What That.Legal posted: "On Day 4, it was finally time for a new witness to take the stand – Mr Kuniaki Takizaki. Mr Takizaki is a Cambodian runner who was also a participant in the Marathon and thus could be said to have personally witnessed the events of that day – Mr Takizaki is a key witness because he is the only witness aside from Soh and Liew, who actually ran the Marathon. Mr Takizaki is not fluent in English and thus needed the help of a translator to get his points across. Yet, in spite of the language barrier, he was able to tell the court that Liew did, in fact, slow down and that if not for this fact, it would have been “totally impossible” for him (Mr Takizaki) to have caught up to Liew in such a short amount of time. "
My take: That.Legal completely leaves out the inconsistency that while Ashley Liew himself never claimed to stop, Takizaki claims that Ashley Liew was “standing there”. From Day 4 of Court Transcripts where Takizaki was cross examined on the stand:
At trial, Ashley made a new claim that he was accelerating (by increasing his cadence) at the exact point that Takizaki claims that Ashley stopped. This is a direct contradiction in evidence given between Ashley and Takizaki that neither Ashley nor his lawyers have been able to reconcile. This version of events was also never mentioned in any of Ashley’s media interviews after the race in 2015, be it with the written press or on television. It only curiously surfaced for the first time at trial.
From paragraph 27 of Ashley Liew’s AEIC:
As for Days 5 and 6, That.Legal has also conveniently left out the inconsistencies that Ashley’s other 2 witnesses present in their account of events. A table detailing the multiple inconsistencies was drawn up and presented on page 49 of our closing submissions. It will be presented again on appeal:
For That.Legal to claim that “Soh was unable to find any flaws” is laughable given that they have been unable to reconcile the multiple inconsistencies put to them.
We now move on to Days 7-10, and what That.Legal blogged about my witnesses:
The Trial – Day 7
What That.Legal posted: "On Day 7, Soh finally took the stand. It came to light that Soh had changed his estimation of how long it took the pack of runners to catch up to Liew after the U-Turn Point – Initially, Soh estimated that it took 1 to 2 mins, but later edited his Facebook comment and changed his estimate to 7 minutes."
My take: This is clear misrepresentation by That.Legal. Just earlier in the blog post, they themselves wrote that my initial comment was “at least 1 to 2 minutes”, not “it took 1 to 2 mins”. My position was explained at trial - I initially gave a conservative estimate of “at least 1-2 minutes” because I was waiting for more concrete evidence to surface before I gave a more concrete number. A video then later surfaced showing that about 2.5km after the U-turn, the pack I was running with was still behind Ashley and had not caught up to him yet! (click for video link) Once this video surfaced, I was able to give a much clearer estimate of the time I took to catch up to him: about 7 minutes.
From my Reply Submissions:
The Trial – Day 9
What That.Legal posted: "On Day 9, Soh’s father, Mr Soh Seow Hong, was cross-examined as one of Soh’s witnesses. Mr Soh claimed that he did not witness Liew slowing down, but several admissions by him during cross-examination alluded to the possibility that Mr Soh had simply not registered that Liew was running at a slower pace due to, inter alia, the bad lighting. "
My Take: This assertion is completely unsubstantiated and inaccurate. Soh Seow Hong was very clear in his testimony that he was sure of what he saw - that at where he was standing (about 450m away from the U-turn point) he saw Ashley Liew still leading the race with no signs of slowing down to wait for everyone else behind him. From paragraphs 30-37 of our Reply Submissions:
I challenge That.Legal and Mark Teng in particular to put forward substantiation rather than making bare assertions. But I think they are unable to, which is why bare assertions were made in the first place.
The Trial – Day 10
What That.Legal posted: "Day 10 was the final day of trial. Mr Balakrishnan was quizzed extensively about his location during the Marathon and he constantly changed his estimate regarding where he was standing."
My take: Another bare assertion. First of all, Mr Madankumar (not Mr Balakrishnan as That.Legal wrote - that would be his father) only changed his location once. He initially stated in his AEIC that he was 600m away from the U-turn point, but upon going down to the venue to check, realised that he was 300m away and not 600m away. He candidly admitted to this mistake before the start of cross examination, and explained the reasons why. It was not the case that he constantly changed his estimate when he was “quizzed extensively”. This to me seems to be again misrepresentation on That.Legal’s part.
From Day 9 of Court Transcripts:
Final words: All in all I was surprised at how enthusiastic That.Legal was in blogging about this case. Most of the lawyers I know generally tend to focus more on their cases rather than blogging. Perhaps for a small firm starting out it is a way of getting more attention in the hope of getting more business. But if you want to do something, do it in an ethical manner, that’s what I feel!
Looking forward to That.Legal correcting their post if they have the moral courage to do so. As recently as January 24, Mark Teng was quoted in the media as saying the approach his firm is taking is to live by the mantra of “do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you”. I believe what That.Legal has done in this post is to misrepresent a case and make multiple unsubstantiated assertions. Here's the chance to prove if they really practice their purported approach, or if it's just empty talk.
I reserve the right to make a formal complaint to the Law Society about Mark Teng's conduct, which I believe to be unbecoming of a lawyer. See you at the High Court appeal!
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