Published: 03 February 2020
Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether there is an upward trend of drug syndicates exploiting minors in the drug trade and how can our enforcement actions and statutory framework deter the syndicates from doing so.
Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what is the Ministry's position on the research paper entitled “Costs of Drug Crime: Literature Review and Methodology” which calculated the detriment drugs cause to Singapore society; (b) whether the findings provide further impetus for Singapore to advance its war on drugs; and (c) what will be done to ensure that a tough and deterrent stance is taken against drug traffickers who push drugs into and within Singapore.
1. Drugs destroy lives, and impose immense costs on individuals and society. Besides tangible costs such as physical injuries, lost productivity and cost of incarceration, there are also very significant intangible costs, in terms of lost lives, pain and suffering, and untold misery to families.
2. The research paper attempted to quantify the costs to Singapore of drug crime, both tangible and intangible costs. The researchers estimated costs of S$1.23 billion in 2015. This is almost certainly an underestimation, as there are other costs which were not included in the study, such as the number of workdays lost for victims of drug crimes. The report did not include this data because it has not been quantified.
3. The high costs drugs exact on society is one reason why we must maintain our firm stance against drugs. We have put in place tough laws, and maintain intensive enforcement. In 2019, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), together with other Home Team agencies, conducted close to 1,500 drug operations across Singapore. The estimated market value of the drugs seized was about S$6.3 million.
4. The CNB has not yet detected any trend of drug syndicates deliberately targeting young persons, be it selling drugs to children and young persons, or recruiting them into the trade.
5. Nevertheless, we take this risk very seriously. We have strengthened our legislative framework and enhanced our enforcement powers to better protect young persons from being exploited and becoming victims of drugs.
6. In 2012, the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) was amended to provide for an offence for any adult who causes or procures any young person to traffic or import drugs. The minimum punishment for such an offender is 10 years’ imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane. In addition, adult traffickers who are found to be trafficking to young persons would face tougher penalties. If the trafficker was found to be trafficking a Class A controlled drug to a young person, the minimum punishment would be 10 years’ imprisonment and 10 strokes, double the normal rates.
7. In 2019, the MDA was further amended to provide more protection to children (below 16 years of age) and young persons from the harms of drugs. It is now an offence for an adult who possesses illicit drugs, knowing that a child is likely to be present in a place, to knowingly or recklessly leave the drugs or drug utensils within easy access of the child. It is also now an offence for an adult to permit or not take reasonable steps to prevent a young person from consuming illicit drugs in the adult’s possession. We will continue to tighten our legislation as needed.