The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill was introduced for First Reading at the Parliamentary Sitting on 15 October 2012.
The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) provides the legal framework for the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful substances. The Act criminalises the trafficking, manufacturing, importation and exportation, possession and consumption of controlled drugs.
The MDA will be amended to enhance overall deterrence, support enforcement efforts and improve upstream intervention for young abusers. The amendments will also sharpen our regulatory tools and calibrate our legal framework to enable the Government to tackle drug trafficking more effectively.
- Introduce temporary listing of new psychoactive substances
New psychoactive substances (commonly known as “designer drugs”) are being developed rapidly. The Act will be amended to give the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) the power to seize new psychoactive substances listed in a temporary schedule. This will restrict circulation of such psychoactive substances while relevant scientific analysis and industry consultation are conducted. Other offences such as trafficking and possession will only apply after the substances have been listed in the relevant permanent schedule.
- Introduce hair analysis to enhance detection and deterrence
This amendment will empower law enforcement officers to obtain hair samples. The results of hair analysis may be used as one of the considerations for the Director of the CNB to issue a supervision order or review the conditions of an existing order. This will complement the current framework for urine testing.
- Strengthen the punishment framework for repeat drug traffickers and those who traffic drugs to the young and vulnerable, and create a new offence for recruiting them for drug trafficking
Stiffer punishments will be provided for repeat traffickers and those who traffic drugs to young and vulnerable persons. A new offence will also be created with similar punishments for those who recruit young or vulnerable persons into drug trafficking.
- Criminalise organisation of drug gatherings
A new offence will be created which criminalises the organising of drug gatherings. This offence will attract a minimum sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment with the option of caning. For gatherings involving the young and vulnerable, the minimum punishment will be 5 years’ imprisonment and 3 strokes of the cane.
- Provide for a Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC)
The Director of the CNB will have the option of detaining young abusers in a Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) as a step-down arrangement after a short period of detention in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC). This will allow them to continue with their education or employment during the day, minimize disruption to their daily lives and mitigate the risk of contamination from repeat abusers in the DRC.
- Changes to the mandatory death penalty regime for drug trafficking
As announced in Parliament on 9 July 2012, two specific conditions are provided for under which the death penalty will no longer be mandatory for drug trafficking. First, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs. Second, discretion will only apply if, having satisfied this first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the CNB in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.
“Substantive cooperation” is defined as “Substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”, which may include, for example, the provision of information leading to the arrest or detention or prosecution of any person involved in any drug trafficking activity. The law will provide for the Public Prosecutor to issue a “Certificate of Cooperation” where this condition is met. The courts will then have the discretion to sentence the defendant to either the death penalty or life imprisonment. Those sentenced to life imprisonment will also be liable to caning of at least 15 strokes.
In relation to “mental disability”, the language of the current diminished responsibility provision applicable to murder will be adopted. The defendant will need to establish to the courts that he suffers from an abnormality of mind as substantially impaired his responsibility for his actions. Persons who are determined to have been acting under a “mental disability” will be sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Bill will also enact transitional provisions which provide that all accused persons who meet the conditions pertaining to the mandatory death penalty can elect to be considered for re-sentencing under the new law. Procedurally, the accused will be able to apply to the court to admit further evidence if it is unclear from the record of proceedings of his trial and/or appeal as to whether he was a courier, or whether he satisfies one of the conditions. Where applicable, the re-sentencing will take place at the first instance in the High Court, with an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Further, existing cases will also be re-considered for clemency.