Rebutting presumption under Section 18(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act: Statement about absence of knowledge of nature of drugs not sufficient

Supreme Court of Singapore: The Bench comprising of CJ Sundaresh Menon and Judith Prakash JA and Tay Yong Kwang, JJ., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the lower court whereby the trial court had convicted the respondent for attempting to import into Singapore a Class C controlled drug and sentenced the respondent for 15 years’ imprisonment.

The main issue that arose before the Court was whether the respondent had rebutted the presumption of knowledge of the nature of the drug under Section 18(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The Court observed that as per Section 18(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act, the person who is found in possession of a certain class of drugs is presumed to have knowledge of the nature of drugs in his/her possession and in order to rebut this presumption, the respondent must give an account of what he thought it was. The Court observed that the respondent was in possession of illegal drugs and a mere statement that he did not know about the nature of drugs in his possession or that he had never heard of diamorphine or heroin, does not automatically rebut the presumption under Section 18(2). The respondent claimed that the drugs he was carrying were not diamorphine, however, if he did not know what diamorphine was then a statement about the drugs not being diamorphine is not sufficient. It was incumbent upon the respondent to find out the nature of drugs he was carrying before importing them into the territory of Singapore.

The Court held that the respondent failed to rebut the presumption under Section 18(2) of the Act. For this simple reason, the Court allowed the appeal and convicted the respondent on the original charge of importation of diamorphine under the Misuse of Drugs Act. [Public Prosecutor v. Gobi A/L Avedian, [2018] SGCA 72, order dated 25-10-2018]

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