Man acquitted of heroin use after ‘reasonable doubt’ created on evidence

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SINGAPORE: A 57-year-old man serving a 7.5-year jail term for consumption of heroin was acquitted on Friday (Mar 24) after he raised doubts on evidence seized in the case.

Justice Chan Seng Onn said the man had “created a reasonable doubt as to the suppression of some Chinese medication which may have contained traces of (controlled drugs) that might have contributed to the detection of (heroin) in his urine”.

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Lemmont Tan Beehunt was arrested on Jan 13, 2016 after he failed to report for a urine test following his release from prison for consumption of heroin. Urine samples taken on the day were analysed by the Heath Sciences Authority (HSA) and found to contain monoacetylmorphone, or heroin.

He was sentenced to 7.5 years’ jail last November, but lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Before the High Court on Friday, Tan insisted he had not taken heroin on or before Jan 13, but said that he had consumed some “shiny black pills” sold to him by a street hawker for pain relief after an operation.

Tan said although he was prescribed painkillers by the hospital, he had been willing to try anything to ease the pain, and had bought about 30 pills for S$90 from the peddler at a coffeeshop.

The Chinese medication may have contained heroin, he argued, adding that he had brought all his medication to the station with him, but that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer had “suppressed” the evidence. A photograph of the medication seized does not show the pills he bought from the street hawker, Tan said.

He also accused the CNB officer of lying. At Tan’s trial last year, the officer testified he had seized the medication on Jan 13, the day of Tan’s arrest. However the photograph of the medication seized shows a prescription dated Jan 18.

“A picture paints a thousand words,” Tan said.

Justice Chan agreed that this raised “serious credibility issues” with the officer who seized the medication.

Tan also claimed officers returned to seize all his medicine on Mar 30, more than two months after his arrest on Jan 13, although the prosecution said there was no evidence of this.

In overturning the conviction, Justice Chan said: “It could be that (Tan) bought the (pills) thinking it was a damn good painkiller, not knowing it contained a controlled drug.”

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