Teen on drug charge who died would have had chance to reform
Minister answers questions from MPs on case of Justin Lee, says hard to do more than speculate
The 17-year-old who was under investigation for trafficking drugs when he fell to his death would have been given a chance to reform after he was dealt with in court, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said.
Replying to questions from five MPs in Parliament yesterday on the case of Justin Lee, Dr Faishal said he could have had a far better future.
Justin died from a fall from height on Sept 16 after he was arrested by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers on Feb 3 and charged in court on June 24 with drug trafficking.
"In Justin's case, he was trafficking drugs and it seems like he was also abusing drugs. But with the right help, he could also have changed.
"And our processes are structured to provide that guidance and help after he is dealt with in court. We bring the family into these efforts as well," said Dr Faishal, who noted Justin had legal representation and was living with his family.
He said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been putting out the message that young offenders arrested for drug offences will have opportunities to reform and will have to continue doing so.
He said it is difficult to do more than speculate what the answers to questions raised following Justin's death are.
"What happened in those eight months? I think it is difficult to say. Is it the fact that the case was coming on in seven days' time? Did he speak with anyone about the (upcoming) case and his concerns? Were there other issues?
"How did he have traces of drugs in his blood? How is it that he appears to have consumed drugs before his fall? There are many questions, and it is difficult to do more than conjecture what the answers are," said Dr Faishal.
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked about CNB's protocols in drug-related investigations involving young people with a history of medical or mental health conditions.
Dr Faishal said if it is made known, prior to bringing in the person, CNB officers will contact the parents or school first, if feasible.
"If the subject displays any medical or special needs during the interview, officers will pause the investigation and activate support measures, such as activating an appropriate adult or sending the person to the Institute of Mental Health for assessment," he said.
"If the person is observed to be capable of being interviewed, the officers will carry on with the interview. The point is that they will use their discretion, based on their observations."
Responding to Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah on how law enforcement agencies identify vulnerable people and those with mental disabilities, Dr Faishal said officers are trained to do so.
"The Home Team has also worked with the Agency for Integrated Care to increase officers' awareness of mental health conditions and help them to identify and respond to persons observed to have some mental health issues."
Dr Faishal said an officer will check if a person has a Developmental Disability Registry identity card, look out for information that the person may be undergoing treatment for diagnosed mental disabilities and observe their behaviour.
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