Accused let off over drug test discrepancy

Man acquitted after different heroin amounts detected in 2 urine samples

Teo Heuw Choon was facing the prospect of a seven-year jail sentence for taking heroin.

Instead, he walked out of court a free man after he was acquitted over a discrepancy in two urine samples. The 56-year-old, who has two previous drug consumption convictions, was released after being given a "stern warning" by the Central Narcotics Bureau.

The charge against him was dropped at the prosecution's request last month because the two samples he gave contained different quantities of heroin.

One had 30 nannograms per millilitre (ng/ml) while the other showed 53 ng/ml.

The Straits Times understands that people who test positive for narcotics should not show such a wide variation.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, two samples taken from suspected offenders will be looked at by two different analysts at the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

If narcotics are present in both, it will mean that he or she has knowingly consumed illicit substances, said a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) yesterday.

"Notwithstanding this, the prosecution may still decide to err on the side of caution to not proceed with a drug consumption charge if there is a significant variance in the quantity of the drugs found in both urine samples," she added.

"In this specific case, both the urine samples were retested by HSA as a precautionary measure and the results were found to be consistent. Thus, for this case, AGC gave the accused the benefit of doubt," she said.

Teo, who works as a painter and has spent a total of 12 years behind bars for drug consumption, was under supervision at the time of the latest offence.

This meant he had to report to a police station in Ang Mo Kio once a week for testing.

Defence lawyer Edmund Wong said his client was "very happy to be released after being in remand and as he had initially been resigned to the prospect of remaining in jail till he reached 60".

Although Teo's offence carried a minimum prison term of five years, The Straits Times understands he could have expected to be jailed for the maximum seven years if convicted. This is because the term could not be less than the previous sentence served for consumption. Teo still has to report to the police station for testing once a week.

vijayan@sph.com.sg