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Judge bows out of trial after defence points out ineligibility

A red-faced judge chose to postpone a defamation trial on Friday afternoon when defence counsel pointed out, and he agreed, he was ineligible to preside over the case.

Judge Svay Tonh had commenced proceedings in the case in which ex-Equitable Cambodia employee Chan Vichet is suing his former boss, executive director Eang Vuthy, along with former and serving HR directors – Chheang Phea and Phen Kimsong, respectively – for defamation.

However, lead defence lawyer Liv Sovanna used his opening remarks to remind Tonh that he had been the case’s investigating judge and was therefore barred from also conducting the trial.

“I raise the point in the public interest and in my client’s interest,” Sovanna said, saying it was up to Tonh whether to proceed, but that the issue would be raised at the Court of Appeal if it came to that.

Tonh quickly conceded Sovanna’s point, before announcing that the trial would be postponed until a later, as yet unspecified date.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun yesterday said he had never heard of an instance of a judge working as both investigating and trial judge in his 20 years of practising law.

This article has been updated to correct the spellings of the names of defendants Chheang Phea and Phen Kimsong.
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