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The role of CNB differ from that of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in terms of the cases that they deal with. Unlike SPF, which is the main government agency assigned to maintain law and order in Singapore, CNB is the primary drug enforcement agency which has been assigned to prevent drug activities in Singapore. Hence, CNB deals mostly with drug-related cases, while SPF deals with the majority of the crimes, such as murder, theft, or rape.
Different Classes of Drugs under the Misuse of Drug Act (MDA):
There are 3 classes of drugs under MDA – namely Class A, Class B and Class C drugs.
Class A drugs are considered to cause the greatest harm on the user. They may be life-threatening or cause permanent side effects on the user. Some examples of Class A drugs are heroin, cannabis and methamphetamine. Thus, the abuser will be punished with the most severe penalty, where they will be imprisoned for within 10 to 30 years and given about 10 to 15 strokes of the cane.
Class B drugs are slightly less harmful as compared to Class A drugs, however they also cause serious side effects on the user. Some examples of Class B drugs are codeine and nicocodine. The abuser will be punished with an imprisonment for within 6 to 30 years and given about 6 to 15 strokes of the cane.
Class C drugs are the least harmful drugs among the rest. Some examples of Class C drugs are nimetazepam and triazolam. The abuser will also be punished with an imprisonment for within 4 to 20 years and given about 4 to 15 strokes of the cane.
Drug Situation in Singapore:
Table 1: Number of total abusers and new abusers arrested between 2014 and 2017
2017 2016 2015 2014
Total drug abusers 3091 3265 3343 3158
New drug abusers 1249 1348 1309 1093
% of New drug abusers 40% 41% 39% 34%
The total number of drug abusers arrested decreased slightly over the past few years. From the statistics of drug abusers arrested in 2017, there was a 5% and 2% drop from the number of drug abusers arrested in 2016 and 2014 respectively. However, there was an increasing trend of new drug abusers arrested, from 34% in 2014 to 40% in 2017. Among the number of new drug abusers arrested, about two-third of them are below the age of 30. The increase in the number of new young drug abusers may be due to the advancement of technology, which aids in providing the information and accessibility of drugs.
The estimated street value of the drugs seized in Singapore in 2017 is about $6.63 million, which is lesser as compared to that in 2016, of about $7.98 million.
Commonly Abused Drugs:
Methamphetamine is one of the more commonly-abused drugs. It is a strong stimulant which is a colourless and odourless crystal. It may also appear in the form of a tablet, known as ‘Ya ba’. Methamphetamine is highly addictive as it has a strong effect on the abuser’s central nervous system, providing the abuser with added energy. However, some of the side effects include depression, anxiety and violent tendency. There may also be damage done to the abuser’s respiratory systems and organs. In worse cases, methamphetamine may cause fits, stroke and death.
In 2017, 64% of the drug abusers arrested were methamphetamine abusers. There was also a 21% increase in the mass of methamphetamine seized, from 18.27 kg in 2016 to 22.18 kg in 2017.
An example of a legal case involving methamphetamine is the case of Mohammad Ashik bin Aris in 2011. The accused was arrested by CNB officers at Kim Tian Hotel on 22 January 2010. He was found with an improvised pipe-like instrument and 18 packets of crystalline substance. The accused admitted his intention of consuming methamphetamine. Three urine specimens were collected and all three were tested positive for methamphetamine. HSA tested the pipe and substances in the 18 packets and certified that the substances were found to be methamphetamine. The interior of the pipe was also stained with methamphetamine, which serves as corroborating evidence of the accused’s statement. Thus, he was subsequently charged with the possession and consumption of controlled drugs, under Section 8 of MDA.
Heroin is the second most commonly abused drug in Singapore. It can appear in granular form, powdered form or solution form. Heroin serves as a form of ‘pain killer’ and is highly addictive. Some of the side effects include tremors, diarrhoea, tiredness and lack of concentration. They reduce the heart rate of the abuser and may also damage the abuser’s organs.
In 2017, 27% of the drug abusers arrested were heroin abusers. There was a 30% decrease in the mass of heroin seized, from 52.41 kg in 2016 to 36.92 kg in 2017.
An example of a legal case involving heroin is the case of Ramdhan and Crokcker in 2018. The two accused were arrested by CNB officers during an anti-drug operation. Crocker was found in possession of 2 bundles of heroin, amounting to at least 29.51g in weight. A sum of $9200 was also found as payment for the drugs. Mobile phone records also showed interchanging phone calls between the two accused persons. Ramdhan was subsequently charged with drug trafficking, while Crocker was charged with possession of controlled drugs for the purpose of drug trafficking, under Section 5 of MDA.
Cannabis is the third most commonly abused drug in Singapore. It can appear as leaves, compressed blocks and oil. Cannabis is a hallucinogen, which affects the concentration and memory of the abuser. Other side effects include paranoia, anxiety and irritability. The abuser’s brain development may also be affected if cannabis was abused for a long time.
In 2017, 7% of the drug abusers arrested were cannabis abusers. There was a 18% decrease in the mass of cannabis seized, from 54.01 kg in 2016 to 44.05 kg in 2017.
An example of a legal case involving cannabis is the case of Fazali bin Mohammad in 2018. The accused was arrested at the sheltered walkway along Block 55 Sims Drive by CNB officers on 16 March 2015, where 7 blocks and a packet of fragmented vegetable matter was found in the accused’s house. HSA analysed the 8 exhibits and about 1838.8 g of vegetable matter was found to be cannabis, while about 2775.34 g of fragmented vegetable matter was found to be a cannabis mixture. The accused’s DNA was also found on the bags containing cannabis, he did not deny knowledge about the drugs. The accused was subsequently charged with trafficking of cannabis and cannabis mixture under Section 5 of MDA and sentenced to death.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS):
NPS are products designed to mimic the effects of controlled drugs and are as highly addictive and harmful as controlled drugs. Some examples of NPS include K2 and Bath Salts. They may come in various forms and may be disguised in different packaging. They are not controlled by any international drug conventions but poses severe health threats. Some NPS causes paranoia, seizures and even severe toxic reactions that may lead to death. However, the full effects of NPS are still unknown.
The presence of NPS is a huge concern as new drugs are constantly redesigned to avoid easy detection by CNB. There is a rapid rise in the number, type and availability of NPS in the world. In addition, the Internet acts as an important source of information about various NPS products, thus, more people are exposed to them daily. This has resulted in many youths turning to them to avoid being caught.
Takeaway from Industrial Visit:
The industrial visit to CNB showed me that other than DNA evidence, technological evidence and experience also plays an important role in investigating a crime.
What I find interesting about digital forensics is that their database contained specifications of phones of various brands, models and mobile operating systems, which allows them to extract data of different platforms, including deleted data. However, digital forensics has their own limitations. They are constantly on a run to keep up with the rate of evolving technology and may not have the data on the newest phones or software. Furthermore, not all data can be recovered as some may be overwritten. Hence, they are largely dependent on various factors to extract data from the phones.
In the physical lab, I noticed that the forensic scientists are very meticulous with the exhibits they deal with. To avoid cross-contamination between evidences, the brown paper and gloves were changed after the processing of each evidence was done. A dry control and wet control was also done for each DNA testing to ensure that any results obtained were not due to the dry or wet control, but solely from the sample.
I realised that CNB works very closely with HSA to identify the quality and quantity of drugs in the evidence. Many procedures are also put into place to ensure that evidences are fully accounted for and to avoid any cross-contamination or tampering of evidences, as shown by the usage of seals and non-tampering bags. Forensic evidence is no doubt important in convicting a drug abuser, however it is not possible without the efforts and experiences of the ground officers who are actively searching for drug abusers to ensure a drug-free society.
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