CNB Statement on Findings Relating to Investigation Into Young Person Suspected of Trafficking Drugs

22 Oct 2021

     This statement summarises CNB’s findings relating to its investigations against Justin Lee (Justin), for suspected drug trafficking, up to the point of CNB’s last contact with him on 23 June 2021. He passed away on 16 September 2021 after falling from height on the same day.


2.     CNB issued a statement on 13 October 2021 in response to media queries, after Justin’s mother, Ms Cecilia Ow, published her letter of appeal (dated 1 October 2021) to Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam. CNB had stated that once investigations were completed, the findings would be shared with Ms Cecilia Ow.

3.     The Singapore Police Force (SPF) also commenced investigations into Justin’s death following his fall from height on 16 September 2021. An autopsy was conducted and the cause of death was determined to be multiple injuries consistent with being sustained from a fall from height. Toxicology tests were conducted and the report indicated that there were traces of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a Class A controlled drug listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and Nitrazepam detected in his urine and blood. These results and findings will be submitted at the Coroner’s Inquiry.

Objectives of CNB's Internal Investigations

4.     CNB’s internal investigations were initiated to establish the facts relating to Justin’s arrest and the subsequent investigations against him, up to the point of CNB’s last contact with him on 23 June 2021.

5.     Justin fell from a height, some 12 weeks after his release on Court bail, on 16 September 2021. CNB’s internal investigations are separate from the investigations undertaken by the SPF in relation to his fall from height on 16 September 2021.

Findings of CNB's Internal Investigations: Facts Established

Arrest of Justin on 3 February 2021

6.     In January 2021, CNB conducted investigations into a subject who was suspected of trafficking LSD stamps (see footnote 1). He was openly advertising them for sale on a messaging app. CNB officers conducted two successful test buys to verify the information, and arrested the subject, later ascertained to be Justin, at about 7.25pm on 3 February 2021. The arrest took place at Serangoon North Ave 4. In a follow-up operation on 4 February 2021 at about 11.42am, 131 LSD stamps were seized from another location in the vicinity of Serangoon North Ave 4. Investigations found that the 131 LSD stamps belonged to Justin. He admitted that they were meant for sale, including to friends. He admitted that he himself had also abused LSD stamps.

No physical force nor abrasive language were used

7.     When he was arrested on 3 February 2021, Justin was compliant and did not put up any struggle. The officers held on to him while he was handcuffed, and escorted to various locations in the course of investigations. This is a standard operating procedure in order to prevent escape or self-harm. There was no unreasonable use of force on him.

8.     Following his arrest, nine CNB officers were deployed for a follow-up anti-drug operation on the same day at Justin’s place of residence located in the vicinity of Hougang Street 22. The number of officers deployed takes into account various factors. There is a need for operational flexibility in the event that there were more suspects and arrests to be made, or if any follow-up operations needed to be immediately conducted. Six of the nine officers entered the unit – upon being granted permission by Ms Cecilia Ow who was present. Out of the six officers, one senior officer leading the team and one female officer engaged Ms Cecilia Ow, while the remaining four escorted Justin into his bedroom. Two officers remained next to Justin, while the other two conducted a search of the room. The search took place from about 9.02pm to about 9.20pm. Justin was escorted to the CNB Enforcement Office at Bedok Police Divisional Headquarters following the search.

9.     Arrested persons under investigations are not allowed to speak to their next-of-kin (NOK) on the details of the case, but are allowed to converse on general matters. In this case, Justin spoke with Ms Cecilia Ow after the search. Further, as he could not locate his eczema medication, Ms Cecilia Ow was also present when he was looking for his eczema medication in his room with the help of CNB officers.

10.     Justin was subsequently transferred to the Central Police Divisional Headquarters, and was referred to a lock-up medical doctor for examination on 4 February 2021. The subsequent medical report issued noted that Justin had a slight abrasion over his left foot and a past history of eczema. The medical report concluded that Justin was well and that “the physical examination was unremarkable”. When Justin was released from the lock-up, he signed to acknowledge that he had no complaints. Justin was not mistreated in any way.

No undue delay in investigations or release from custody

11.     Justin’s case was investigated within a reasonable period, and he was released from custody without delay. As the duration of interviews and serving of charges varies from case to case, it is not possible to provide an estimate to NOKs on the duration required. For security reasons, arrested persons are also not permitted to retain their personal belongings (including mobile devices) when they are admitted into the lock-up. This is to prevent unauthorised communication with others which may jeopardise the investigation, escape by the arrested subject, or injury to self or others. 

12.     For young suspects under investigations (which are not capital cases), CNB ensures that they are released on bail as soon as possible. In this case, Justin was arrested on 3 February 2021 at about 7.25pm, and following initial investigation, he was escorted for a house search that took place from about 9.02pm to about 9.20pm. He was then escorted to the CNB Enforcement Office at Bedok Police Divisional Headquarters for a urine test, recording of further statement, and detailed searches and documentation of personal properties. He was subsequently escorted to the Central Police Divisional Headquarters where he was admitted to the lock-up at about 1.27am on 4 February 2021. Given the time of admission, Justin was allowed to rest before the first video-recorded interview was conducted at about 11.45am the same day. As the 131 LSD stamps were only recovered at about 11.42am, a second video-recorded interview was conducted from about 7.34pm to 8.02pm, during which he admitted ownership of the drugs found and that the drugs were meant for sale. After the second video-recorded interview, Justin was allowed to make a call to Ms Cecilia Ow at about 8.53pm, and was released on bail to her at about 10.41pm on 4 February 2021.

13.     In the subsequent months, the CNB Investigating Officer (IO) continued with his investigations, retrieving various reports, including the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) analysis of the drug exhibits, medical reports, and POLCam footage showing Justin in possession of a bag containing the 131 LSD stamps prior to his arrest. Upon completion of investigations in May 2021, CNB consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), which directed in June 2021 that Justin be charged for drug trafficking offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act. He was asked to report to CNB Headquarters on 23 June 2021.

14.     When Justin reported to CNB Headquarters on 23 June 2021 at about 12.40pm, he was admitted into the lock-up, and served with the drug trafficking charges. This process was video-recorded. As drug-related offences, especially drug trafficking, attract heavy penalties and there is a high flight risk, subjects charged with drug-related offences will normally not be released on bail, and will instead be escorted to Court for prosecution the next day. However, in view of his age, CNB released Justin on bail after serving the charges on him, and allowed him to report to Court the next day. Justin was released on the same day at about 7.52pm to Ms Cecilia Ow. When Justin was released from custody of the lock-up, he signed to acknowledge that he had no complaints. This was the last contact that CNB had with him. He was subsequently charged in Court on 24 June 2021 and released on Court bail.

15.     Regarding the allegations that the Court had postponed the case a few times which added more stress to Justin, the Prosecution was ready to take the plea on 24 June 2021 when Justin was charged in Court. It was the Defence Counsel representing Justin who had requested to adjourn the court mentions four times, first from 24 June 2021 to 22 July 2021, and then to 19 August 2021, 9 September 2021 and finally to 23 September 2021.

Appropriate Adult (AA) scheme used for suspects below 16 years old

16.      The Appropriate Adult (AA) Scheme is used for suspects below 16 years old who are interviewed by the SPF or CNB during criminal investigations.

17.     Justin was 17 years old at the time of arrest. During the first video-recorded interview on 4 February 2021, Justin mentioned to the CNB IO that he was having depression and had previously been diagnosed by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for the same. CNB proceeded with both the first and second video-recorded interviews on 4 February 2021, taking into consideration the following factors: He 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.

18.     The CNB IO also applied for a medical report from IMH. The IMH report stated that Justin was referred in 2020 by the school-based REACH community team for low mood and suicidality. The report also stated that he was diagnosed with Dysthymia (a form of depression) and had been seeing a psychologist regularly.

19.     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. 

20.     Justin was referred to medical doctors due to his own declaration of “eczema, mild depression” and “eczema, minor depression” in the ‘Person-in-Custody Medical State Form’ on 4 February and 23 June 2021 respectively. In the subsequent medical reports issued and email clarifications with the doctors, there were no allegations of assault. The medical report for the medical examination on 23 June 2021 conducted after the serving of charges also stated that “(t)he patient was stable with no acute issues at the time of consultation. The patient was not experiencing any hallucinations. He did not have any self-harm or suicidal thoughts and did not report feeling unwell.”

No mistreatment during time in custody

21.     Internal investigations showed no mistreatment during the time that Justin was in the lock-up. CCTV footage showed that that he was issued with a blanket. He was given his meals, including drinks, during his custody in the lock-up in February and June 2021. During the admission process, he was also informed of his rights to request for these items if he wanted to. CCTV footage also showed that on 4 February 2021, he was seen doing some stretching and was in a planking position for about 1 minute and 20 seconds while he was in the lock-up. He was not stopped by officers manning the lockup since he was not causing any disturbance. He was also observed to have walked around the cell and chatted with other persons-in-custody at different periods. CCTV footage also showed that on 23 June 2021, there were no instances of him trying to do push-ups, nor were there any restrictions imposed on him from moving about in the cell. This is contrary to allegations that he was not allowed to do push-ups to keep himself warm.

22.     Based on interviews with officers involved in the arrest and those who had contact with him during custody in February and June 2021, Justin was not denied water during his time in custody. In fact, all drug suspects are given ample access to water in order to be able to provide their urine specimen for drug tests to be conducted. This is contrary to the allegation that he was denied water.

Belongings typically returned only at the end of court process

23.     Belongings seized for the purpose of investigations are typically returned only at the end of the court process as they might be required as evidence for the offences.

Engagement with Ms Cecilia Ow

24.     Following Ms Cecilia Ow’s letter dated 1 October 2021 to Minister K Shanmugam, the Minister contacted her personally on the same day to assure her that a thorough review into Justin’s arrest and investigations would be conducted. CNB has been engaging Ms Cecilia Ow since 20 September 2021. The senior officer-in-charge of the investigation team had returned her call on the same day. The Deputy Director of CNB had also contacted her on 21 September 2021. CNB assured her that there would be full internal investigations. On 30 September and 8 October 2021, a CNB senior official had also met Ms Cecilia Ow at her residence and at the Ang Mo Kio Police Divisional Headquarters respectively. During these meetings, Ms Cecilia Ow was advised about the investigations. Justin’s properties were returned to her. She was offered psychological support on 21 September 2021 (para 26 below). During the meeting on 8 October 2021, she was provided with a timeframe of about 2 weeks for CNB to complete internal investigations, and was informed that CNB would share the findings with her once investigations are completed.

25.     The findings of CNB’s internal investigations were shared with her on 22 October 2021.

Psychological support offered

26.     CNB had arranged for psychological support to be provided to Ms Cecilia Ow during this difficult period which she consented to on 21 September 2021, and a CNB psychologist spoke to her on 22 September 2021 for an hour to provide support and share coping strategies (Ms Cecilia Ow had said in an online post of 18 October that she did not accept CNB’s offer to provide psychological support to her). On 30 September 2021, when the CNB senior official met Ms Cecilia Ow at her residence, the psychologist was also present to check on her. However, a family member conveyed later on the same day on her behalf that she did not wish to take up further psychological support from CNB.

Summary of findings from CNB's internal investigation 

27.     Based on the investigation findings, Justin was treated professionally and fairly. He was coherent and articulate in his responses throughout the video-recorded interviews. Justin was subjected to medical examinations on 4 February and 23 June 2021 at the lock-up and on both occasions, the medical 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.

28.     CNB understands that this is a difficult time for Ms Cecilia Ow and will continue to render assistance to her. 

29.     CNB is committed to keeping the streets of Singapore drug-free, and conducts rigorous enforcement to deal with the trafficking of drugs. CNB has to adopt a proactive approach to disrupt such activities before they take root. Drug trafficking and drug abuse are serious threats to our society. If left unchecked, more lives would be harmed and families affected.


22 October 2021


Footnote 1

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a Class A controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Class A drugs are considered to be the most harmful. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of trafficking in LSD will be liable for a minimum punishment of 5 years and 5 strokes of the cane.

LSD is often sold on blotting paper, which is usually imprinted with a colourful cartoon or design and comes in square cuts of less than 1 cm each. Although abusers take it orally, the tabs of blotting paper can also be placed on skin areas that readily absorb the drug into the bloodstream, for example, under the eyelid. When ingested, LSD takes effect within 30 minutes. Its effects are strongest after 3 to 5 hours and can last up to 12 hours. Each square-cut paper (or ‘stamp’) laced with LSD would be considered 1 dose.

The long-term effects of LSD abuse include psychosis, violent mood changes, hallucinations and paranoia. Other effects include mood and personality changes (sometimes extreme), dissociation (referred to as “trips”), anxiety, depression, long lasting psychoses (e.g. severe depression), schizophrenia, involuntary “flash-backs”, and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorders (HPPD) i.e. hallucinations and flashbacks that persist for days after the LSD abuse. If consumed in a sufficiently large dose, LSD produces delusions and visual hallucinations that distort the user’s sense of time and identity.