Justin Lee, who fell to his death after drug arrest, treated professionally and fairly by officers: CNB

SINGAPORE – The 17-year-old boy who died from a fall from height three months after he was charged with drug trafficking was treated fairly by its officers, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

The bureau had launched an investigation after Justin Lee’s mother, Ms Cecilia Ow, 51, on Oct 12 posted a letter addressed to Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam on her Instagram page, describing her son’s arrest and his history with depression.

In a detailed statement on Friday (Oct 22), CNB said: “Justin was treated professionally and fairly. He was coherent and articulate in his responses throughout the video-recorded interviews.”

It added that Justin was subjected to medical examinations on Feb 4 and June 23, 2021, and on both occasions, the doctors did not detect any issues of concern.

“CNB’s internal investigations also showed that there was no undue delay in the investigation and prosecutorial processes,” said the bureau.

After he was found dead at the bottom of a block of flats on Sept 16, an autopsy was performed.

Toxicology tests indicated that there were traces of LSD detected in his urine and blood, CNB said.

LSD is a Class A controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Class A drugs are considered to be the most harmful.

Ms Ow, in her post, had called for a separate unit within the police force with training in handling young people with mental health issues to be formed to deal with offenders under the age of 18.

Her letter triggered the CNB to announce on Oct 14 that it would launch an internal probe into the circumstances of the teenager’s arrest.

CNB said on Friday that it conducted investigations into a subject who was openly advertising LSD stamps for sale on a messaging app in January. 

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of trafficking in LSD will be liable for a minimum punishment of five years and five strokes of the cane.

“CNB officers conducted two successful test buys to verify the information and arrested the subject, later ascertained to be Justin,” added the bureau.

Justin had admitted that the 131 LSD stamps officers found belonged to him and were meant for sale, including to friends. He also admitted that he had abused LSD stamps, said CNB.

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CNB addressed several of Ms Ow’s allegations that she included in her letter.

Ms Ow, a senior lecturer at a polytechnic, had alleged that Justin was denied a drink of water, but CNB said that all drug suspects are given ample access to water in order to be able to provide their urine specimens for drug tests.

She had also said that Justin was held in less than ideal conditions while he was in custody, and on June 23, he was not allowed to do push-ups to keep himself warm while in a cell.

CNB responded that closed-circuit television footage showed that Justin was issued a blanket.

He was given his meals, including drinks, during his custody in the lock up in February and June.

On the allegations that the court had postponed the case a few times which added more stress to Justin, CNB said that the prosecution was ready to take his plea on June 24, when Justin was charged in court but the defence counsel had requested to adjourn the court mentions four times.

CNB also addressed the Appropriate Adult (AA) Scheme for young suspects, which applies to those below 16 years old who are interviewed by the police or CNB during criminal investigations. Justin was 17 when he was arrested.

There is also an AA scheme for the mentally vulnerable, and CNB said that Justin had told officers that he had depression and had been diagnosed by the Institute of Mental Health.

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CNB said that they proceeded with video-recorded interviews on Feb 4, taking into consideration that Justin was “composed and coherent during the interviews, and was able to logically articulate the flow of events, including sharing about his research on drugs and his trafficking modus operandi.

“He sought clarifications when he wanted to make amendments. He was observed not to show signs of distress during the interviews.”

It added: “Throughout their interactions with Justin, CNB officers exercised sensitivity and endeavoured to release him on bail as soon as possible. No physical force, nor any abrasive language, were used at any time while he was in CNB’s custody.

“CNB understands that this is a difficult time for Ms Cecilia Ow and will continue to render assistance to her,” said the bureau.

Helplines

• National Care Hotline:
1800-202-6868 (8am – 12am)

Mental well-being

• Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline:
6389-2222 (24 hours)

• Samaritans of Singapore:
1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)

• Singapore Association for Mental Health:
1800-283-7019

• Silver Ribbon Singapore:
6386-1928

• Tinkle Friend:
1800-274-4788 and www.tinklefriend.sg

• Community Health Assessment Team:
6493-6500/1 and www.chat.mentalhealth.sg

Counselling

• TOUCHline (Counselling):
1800-377-2252

• TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers):
6804-6555

• Care Corner Counselling Centre:
1800-353-5800

Online resources

• mindline.sg

• My Mental Health

• Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service

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