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CJC-F takes us through the use of blood analysis, fingerprinting, and odontology which ensured the accused’s conviction of murder.

In the early hours of 1 July 2007, the accused’s body was discovered at the ground of Block 181 Stirling Road. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. Two days later, the accused surrendered himself to the police.

The night before her death, the deceased went drinking with her friends at a pub, staying there until 4 am. Around the same time, the accused contacted a mutual friend and told him that she was drunk. The friend then conveyed her message to the accused, whereupon the accused went to find the deceased.

On finding the deceased inebriated, the accused became angry and began to assault her. He dragged her to the top of Block 181 before causing her to fall over the parapet wall onto the ground below.


*AR + MR + Absence of Defence (AOD) = Conviction

Prosecution’s Forensic Evidence 
The prosecution relied heavily on the autopsy, bloodstains, fingerprints and shoeprints to make its arguments.

(1) Autopsy

Performed by Associate Professor Gilbert Lau (“Professor Lau”) of the Centre of Forensic Medicine of the Health Sciences Authority (“HSA”), the forensic pathologist found the following injuries (amongst others):

(2) Bloodstains

Forensic examination of the bloodstains and DNA analysis was conducted by Dr Tay Ming Kiong (“Dr Tay”) and Ang Hwee Cheng (“Mr Ang”) of the HSA respectively.

(3) Fingerprints and Shoeprints

Fingerprint analysis was conducted by Mohd Yazid bin Abdullah (“Mr Yazid”) while shoeprint analysis was conducted by forensic scientist Chow Yuen San Vickey (“Ms Vickey”).

Acknowledging the accused’s presence at the crime scene, the defence chose to focus on the general defence of intoxication and the partial defences of diminished responsibility and provocation. The defence further contended that the deceased committed suicide.


From the very outset, Justice Tay Yong Kwang (“Tay J”) noted that positive blood swabs matching the accused’s DNA were found at the crime scene. This piece of forensic evidence was pivotal in placing the accused at Block 181 and its vicinity on 1 July 2007. It also proved that the accused had met the deceased.

In light of the damning forensic evidence and the inapplicable defences, Tay J thus convicted the accused of murder and sentenced him to the mandatory death penalty.


[Case Commentary written by Hariharan Ganesan]

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


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What is Deception

Deception is commonly defined as the “act of encouraging people to believe information that is not true.” This falsehood generally misleads, hides the truth or promotes a belief concept or idea that is incorrect. Deception is often carried out due to personal gain or advantage over others. Some common examples of deception can include: lying, by stating something known to be untrue with the intent to deceive, omission, by hiding the truth to deceive, or having statements that misrepresent facts and exaggeration of content. With all these avenues where potential deception can occur, the next important question would be the importance of being able to detect deception. Having the skills to differentiate the false from facts is something integral in areas such as police investigations, court trials, border control interviews and intelligence interviews. 

What is interrogation

Alongside deception comes interrogation which is usually referred to as formal or repetitive questioning. This process of questioning is done by the police on someone who is arrested or suspected of a crime. Interrogation techniques are used to pinpoint the truth from details that the subject provides and how the subject reacts to the line of questioning. One of a well-known investigation technique is the Reid Investigation Technique, comprising of 9 steps: initial confrontation, theme development, handling details, overcoming objections, procurement of subject’s attention, handling the subject’s passive mood, presenting an alternative question, developing the details of admission and converting the verbal confession into a written or recorded document. Interrogation is a double-edged sword as, if done improperly, could lead to false confessions. Improper methods of interrogation include: engaging in behaviour that the courts have ruled to be objectionable such as threatening inevitable consequences, making a promise of leniency in return for the confession, denying the subject their rights and conducting an excessively long interrogation.

Theories involved

Fundamentally, telling and detecting truths and/or telling lies are psychologically different.There are both practical and theoretical ways used to detect lies. An example of a theoretical way to detect lies is cue theories. Cue theories is an overarching term which encapsulates and unify the general gist of ideas based on research and theories on deception detection. How truth and lies vary usually differ from theory to theory but some common examples include the emotional states felt when telling the truth and when lying, the amount of arousal in the autonomic nervous system, and the degree of cognitive load or effort naturally involved in message production. As lies require more effort to generate, and are more tiring when trying to maintain the temporal line of events in memory, cue theory states that a lying person will give off behavioural ‘cues’ that signal deception. It is also more difficult to make strategic efforts to appear honest, to conduct message planning and to pretend to have the willingness to be forthcoming. This is because lying creates greater cognitive load (Walczyk, 2013) imposed on the person lying in order to come up with the lie and to maintain the structural integrity of the lie, thus this allows for ways to catch someone and trap them in their lie.

Another common way to tell if someone is lying is to ask them to tell the story backwards or jump around the temporal order of events as liars constructing their own false stories will have a higher difficulty in retelling their story this way as it requires more cognitive processing of details and usually these details will be mixed up and confused when the order of the storytelling is jumbled. Furthermore, psychological states produced by deception are behaviorally signalled by specific observational cues such as non-verbal detection cues, observation of non-verbal behaviour and voice pitch where more highly pitched voices are used when people are lying. These cues are practical ways to detect lying, and help to mediate and explain the relationship between truths-lies and cues. However, the evidence points to divergent conclusions and challenges the validity of cue-based lie-detection (Levine, 2018). In fact, it was also found that when falsifying statements, speakers were less likely to produce the cues that listeners were looking for (Loy, n.d.).


Overall, lie detection has been an important tool to differentiate lies from facts in “police investigations, court trials, border control interviews and intelligence interviews”. Such high-risk points of context sieve out terrorists or people who aim to do harm by asking then standard questions such as what they are going to do, or what will they be using equipment for. Such questions may frighten criminals and cause them to say something suspicious through the slip of their tongue, leading to more suspicion by the security clearance personnel. The availability of such expertise in detecting deception also acts as deterrence towards criminals who are planning criminal activity. A seasoned criminal may know how to get past police interviews pretending to be innocent, yet get called back due to the suspicion of the police.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


International journal of communication. (n.d.). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from

Deception | psychology today singapore. (n.d.). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from

Interrogation. (n.d.). LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 13 April 2022, from

Loy, J. E., Rohde, H., & Corley, M. (n.d.). Cues to lying may be deceptive: Speaker and listener behaviour in an interactive game of deception. Journal of Cognition, 1(1), 42.

Orlando, James (2014) Interrogation techniques. OLR Research Report. Retrieved 13 April 2022, from 

A description of the reid technique | john e. Reid and associates, inc. (n.d.). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from

Levine, Timothy (2018) Scientific Evidence and Cue Theories in Deception Research: Reconciling Findings from Meta-Analyses and Primary Experiments. International Journal of Communication, 12, 2461-2479. Retrieved from


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Forensic entomotoxicology studies the application of toxicological analysis to carrion-feeding insects like blow fly larvae in order to detect drugs and toxins present on intoxicated tissues of decomposing corpses. You may refer to our previous article for an introduction to forensic entomology. This article focuses solely on the use of forensic entomotoxicology.


The gold standard for the detection of drugs/toxins in forensic entomotoxicology is the gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), a destructive method of detections. As such, non-destructive detection methods such as near-infrared spectroscopy are being tested out. Such methods are usually non-destructive, which is a benefit given the small sample sizes available from insects.


While the identification and quantification of drugs from adult insects and pupae are possible, it is usually done on larvae that are actively feeding on the corpse. This is because the rate of absorption of the drugs/toxins should exceed the rate of elimination in order for the drugs/toxins to accumulate in the insects, and such is the case when the insect is actively feeding (the larvae stage).


However, the larval stage might not always be the stage with the most accumulation. For example, in a study done on Lucilia sericata, the highest bioaccumulation factor (BAF) for cadmium was found in the larval stage (in the range of 0.20-0.25), while the puparial stage accumulated more thallium than the other stages tested (BAF in the range of 0.24-0.42). These showed that different bioaccumulation patterns can exist between different substances.


Substances have been detected for various durations postmortem. For example, triazolam, oxazepam, phenobarbital, alimemazin, and clomipramine were detected 67 days postmortem in blowfly larvae recovered from a corpse in a suicide case. (Note that triazolam and oxazepam are currently not registered in Singapore, and that alimemazin is not registered in Singapore or US). Meanwhile, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, arsenic, several organophosphates (e.g. those used in pesticides), mercury, morphine, cocaine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (more commonly known as Ecstasy), were found in maggots and empty puparia up to 5 months after persons had died.


However, not every substance can be detected using insects. For example, heroin metabolites (such as morphine) could only be detected at higher concentrations in mincemeat when fed to Lucilia cuprina (L. cuprina), and could only be found in two of the stages (namely the second and third instars).


Below is a table of medications and substances that have been detected in insects so far: 

Drugs/medications that have been detected so far

Longest duration of detection postmortem known to date


Tricyclic antidepressants: Amitriptyline, Nortriptyline, Clomipramine

5 months for amitriptyline and nortriptyline; 67 days for clomipramine.

Mark Benecke (2014). 


Kintz, P., Godelar, B., Tracqui, A., Mangin, P., Lugnier, A.A., & Chaumont, A. (1990).

Heavy metals: Arsenic, Mercury (>10 μg/g in an empty pupa)

5 months

B Bourel, L Fleurisse, V Hédouin, J C Cailliez, C Creusy, D Gosset, M L Goff (2001).

Drugs of abuse (stimulants): 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, Cocaine

5 months

Mark Benecke (2014).


5 months

Mark Benecke (2014).


5 months

Mark Benecke (2014).

Benzodiazepines: Triazolam, Oxazepam, Diazepam 

67 days for triazolam and oxazepam

5 years for diazepam

Kintz, P., Godelar, B., Tracqui, A., Mangin, P., Lugnier, A.A., & Chaumont, A. (1990).


Grellner W, Glenewinkel F (1997).

Barbiturates: Phenobarbital

67 days

Kintz, P., Godelar, B., Tracqui, A., Mangin, P., Lugnier, A.A., & Chaumont, A. (1990).

Alimemazin (aka Trimeprazine)

Note: not available in many countries including Singapore

67 days

Kintz, P., Godelar, B., Tracqui, A., Mangin, P., Lugnier, A.A., & Chaumont, A. (1990).


PMI changes due to drugs/poisons

Besides detecting drugs and other substances, forensic toxicology can also be used to detect the PMIs. Several medications and substances have been shown to affect the lifespans of insects, resulting in deviations from PMI estimation.


Codeine and cocaine have been shown to increase the development rates of insects. On the other hand, methamphetamine, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), at least two antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and dimethoate (an organophosphate), have been shown to slow the developments of insects.


Mortalities of insects may also be affected. While antibiotics may decrease mortality, other medications/substances such as organophosphates, ethylene glycol, and methamphetamine might increase mortality, in studies done on a single species each.

All these impacts the rate of development of insects and the young which therefore can affect PMI calculations.

Case study

Forensic entomotoxicology is especially important where usual methods of toxicology may not suffice. One example is where the bodies have been burnt. Bugelli presents the case study of maternal filicide-suicide by fire. A mother was found with her two children with their bodies heavily burnt. In order to corroborate the toxicological tests performed on the destroyed remains, larva was found in the bodies of the mother and her two children, which was later analysed for toxins. The larval samples collected from the children were tested positive for several drugs, including benzodiazepines. This led to the conclusion that the mother had drugged her children with sedatives, before killing them and herself.

As there were still some internal tissue and urine samples available for toxicological analysis, the use of forensic entomotoxicology served as a corroborative tool for toxicological analysis supporting the investigation of this case. However, Bugelli suggests that where such samples are not possible, such as in bodies which are even more destroyed or colonised by microfauna, entomotoxicology becomes an important alternative tool for toxicological analysis.

Current limitations in forensic entomotoxicology

As forensic entomotoxicology is a relatively new field, it has many limitations. Examples include: the mechanisms of how different stages of insects metabolise drugs, whether metabolic products of drugs differ between insect species (and humans), whether different species of insects might be affected by a certain substance differently, etc.


In particular, the correlation between human samples and insect samples requires further study before the results of entomotoxicological analysis can be seen as truly valuable. Moreover, the various processes of ingestion (e.g. absorption, metabolism, accumulation of drug) within different insects have not been fully understood. There also lacks a common understanding of what the appropriate interpretation of detected drug concentration should be.

It is also unfortunate that forensic entomotoxicology has not been strongly studied in Singapore. While general studies of common insects have value, it is difficult to use forensic entomotoxicology in forensic investigations or as evidence in court without further research in Singapore. In particular, insufficient research has been done under Singapore’s context (e.g. climate, humidity). Local necrophagous insects have also not received extensive research, rendering forensic entomotoxicology to be of limited use in Singapore.

Additionally, crimes in Singapore tend to be solved within 24-48 hours but forensic entomology is most valuable and useful at least 72 hours after death. This could explain the lack of urgency to develop our talents in this field, as our current forensic investigations are sufficient to meet our needs.

Nonetheless, forensic entomotoxicology is an exciting field of study and its potential utilities should not be disregarded.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


Below is a table of some drugs that may affect insect development and potentially PMI estimation:



Comments on insect development and PMI estimation (if any)

Other notes



Opioids: Codeine, Morphine 

Codeine, Chrysomya albiceps (C. albiceps):

–        Acceleration in the development during life cycle and incomplete emergence of some adult flies from their pupae in the injected group.

–       PMI estimation: inaccuracies of up to 24h when estimation based on larval development and 48h when estimation based on pupal development.



Morphine, Chrysomya stygia (C. stygia):

–       Growth rates of C. stygia fed on morphine-spiked mince did not differ significantly from those fed on control mince for any comparison interval or parameter measured.

Codeine, C albiceps:

–       Morphological changes in the form of disfiguring of segments,

–       loss of colouration and abnormalities in the shape of both anterior and posterior spiracles in the larvae. 

–       The adult flies show rudimentary wings, abnormal bands on the undersurface of the abdomen,fading of normal colour to complete loss of it.

C. albiceps


C. stygia

Fathy H et al (2001).



George KA, Archer MS, Green LM, Conlan XA, Toop T (2009).

Illicit drugs: Methamphetamine, Ketamine, Cocaine 

Methamphetamine, Calliphora vomitoria (C. vomitoria):

–       Methamphetamine produced a significant increase in the developmental time from egg to adult in C. vomitoria. 

–       Approximately 60% of larvae exposed to either dose of methamphetamine died during the pupation period and


Methamphetamine, Aldrichina grahami:

–       The developmental time to reach the pupal instar was statistically slower for the larvae reared on rabbit mince containing MA than for the control;


Ketamine, L. sericata:

–       Significant differences were observed between control and treatment colonies of L. sericata at each life stage, and the effect of ketamine displayed a dosage-and-time-dependent manner.

–       No differences were noticed between the effects of ketamine on larval body length and weight, which provided a useful indication for larvae sample collection in practice.



–        (At   the lethal dose) causes larvae to “develop more rapidly  36  (to  76)  hours  after  hatching”.

–       The  amount  of  growth  depends  on  the concentration  of  cocaine  in  the  area  being fed upon.

Methamphetamine, C vomitoria:

–       The resultant lengths of larvae and pupae were on average significantly larger than the controls.


Methamphetamine, Aldrichina grahami:

–       The mean length of the larvae exposed to MA concentrations was longer than those of the control.

–       The mean weight of the pupae exposed to the highest concentration of MA was significantly lighter than those of the control.


Ketamine, L. sericata:

–       The pathological observation revealed that ketamine could promote the growth of trophocytes in L. sericata.



Methamphetamine: C. vomitoria,

Aldrichina grahami


Ketamine: L. sericata (Meigen)

Magni PA et al (2014).


Shiwen Wang et al (2020).


Yi Zou et al (2013).


–       The decomposition process for the carcasses of rabbits fed alcoholic beverages antemortem was one to two days longer.

–       The results also showed, however, that alcoholic beverages did not affect insect succession patterns in either season.


Various (insect succession patterns)

Mohammed Al-Khalifa et al (2021).

Antibiotics: Ceftriaxone, Levofloxacin

–       Underestimation of PMI by 24-48hrs.

–       Maggot development was delayed by levofloxacin.

–       Pupal development is delayed by ceftriaxone and levofloxacin.

–       Reduced mortalities.


C. vomitoria. (Diptera: Calliphoridae).

Preußer D et al (2021).

Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol)

–       Both species were unable to survive when reared on a food substrate spiked with the highest concentration of EG (T3), while lower and medium concentrations (T1, T2) affected, but not prevented, the survival and the completion of the life cycle of such species. 

–       Adults of L. sericata eclosed only in the control and the lowest concentration, while adults of L. cuprina were able to eclose in the control, the lowest concentration, and the intermediate concentration.

–       The developmental time of both species reared in antifreeze (for those that survived) was statistically slower than the control.

–       The body length of the immatures of both of the species reared in T1 and T2 was statistically smaller than the control.

L. sericata and L. cuprina (Wiedemann).

Pazzi AEM et al (2018).

Immunosuppressants: Cyclophosphamide, Methotrexate

–       Cyclophosphamide significantly decreased their developmental rate up to 28h.


–       Methotrexate had no significant impact on development rate.

–       Cyclophosphamide had no significant effect on larval and adult sizes, survival rate, and sex ratio.

–       Methotrexate decreased larval and adult sizes, survival rate, and there was a deviation in the expected sex ratio toward females in MTX-exposed larvae.

Chrysomya megacephala (C. megacephala ) (Diptera: Calliphoridae)

Ana Letícia Trivia, Carlos José de Carvalho Pinto (2018).

Organophosphates: Dimethoate, Terbufos, α- and β-endosulfan.


–       Various concentrations of dimethoate (1 ppm, 2 ppm, 3 ppm and 4 ppm) were utilised in the study.

–       The rate of development of the carrion flies showed a negative correlation with the concentration of the chemical.



–       The temporal pattern of larval dispersion was altered.

–       The composition and structure of the colonising assemblage (emerged adults) was also altered.

–       Species’ development time, accelerating or delaying their cycle, depending on the dose used was affected.

–       The emergence rates of califorids and sarcophagids, which increased the mortality of pupae from intoxicated carcasses, was affected.


α- and β-endosulfan:

–       Prevented C. vomitoria immatures reaching the pupal instar and, therefore, the adult instar at high concentrations.

–       Did not affect the developmental time of blowflies at low concentrations.

–       Affected the size of immatures only at high concentrations, resulting in significantly smaller larvae.


Dimethoate: Calliphoridae flies, namely C. megacephala, Chrysomya saffranea, Chrysomya rufifacies and Chrysomya indiana.


Terbufos: general.


α- and β-endosulfan: C. vomitoria




Fahd Mohammed Abd Al Galil et al (2021). 


Jales JT et al (2021).


Magni PA et al (2018).

Heavy metals

–       Thallium was also observed to have a negative effect on larval growth, resulting in lower weight and smaller puparial size.


L. sericata

Malejko J et al (2020).


Al-Khalifa M, Mashaly A, Al-Qahtni A (2021). Impacts of antemortem ingestion of alcoholic beverages on insect successional patterns. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 28 (1): 685-692.


Anderson, G. S.  (2004).  Forensic  entomology:  The use  of  insects  in death  investigations.


Amendt, J., Richards, C. S., Campobasso, C. P., Zehner, R., & Hall, M. J. (2011). Forensic entomology: Applications and limitations. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 7(4), 379-392.


Benecke M (2014). Arthropoda and Corpses. Forensic Pathology Reviews, Vol. 2, Chapter 10, Pages 207-240.


Benecke, M. (2001). A brief history of forensic entomology. Forensic Science International, 120(1-2), 2-14.


Bourel B, Fleurisse L, Hédouin V, Cailliez JC, Creusy C, Gosset D, Goff ML (2001). Immunohistochemical contribution to the study of morphine metabolism in Calliphoridae larvae and implications in forensic entomotoxicology. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 46 (3): 596-9 


Bugelli, V., Papi, L., Fornaro, S., Stefanelli, F., Chericoni, S., Giusiani, M., Vanin, S., & Campobasso, C. P. (2017). Entomotoxicology in burnt bodies: a case of maternal filicide-suicide by fire. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 131(5), 1299–1306.


Byrd, J., & Sutton, L. (2020). Forensic entomology for the investigator. WIREs Forensic Science, 2(4).


Campobasso, C. P., & Introna, F. (2001). The forensic entomologist in the context of the forensic pathologist’s role. Forensic Science International, 120(1-2), 132-139.


Chophi, R., Sharma, S., Sharma, S., & Singh, R. (2019). Forensic entomotoxicology: Current concepts, trends and challenges. Journal of forensic and legal medicine, 67, 28–36.

Essarras A, Pazzi M, Dadour IR, Magni PA (2018). The effect of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) on the survival and the life cycle of two species of necrophagous blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Science & Justice: Journal of the Forensic Science Society, 58 (2): 85-89.


Fahd Mohammed Abd Al Galil, Sureshchandra Popat Zambare, Fahd A Al-Mekhlafi, Lamya Ahmed Al-Keridis (2021). Effect of dimethoate on the developmental rate of forensic importance Calliphoridae flies. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 28 (2): 1267-1271. 

Fathy H et al (2001). Effect of Codeine Phosphate on Developmental Stages of Forensically Important Calliphoride Fly : Chrysomya Albiceps. Mansoura Journal of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology 16(1):41-59. DOI:10.21608/mjfmct.2008.54085

George KA, Archer MS, Green LM, Conlan XA, Toop T (2009). Effect of morphine on the growth rate of Calliphora stygia (Fabricius) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and possible implications for forensic entomology. Forensic Sci Int.,193(1-3):21-5. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.08.013. Epub 2009 Sep 20. PMID: 19773137.


Grellner W, Glenewinkel F (1997). Exhumations: synopsis of morphological and toxicological findings in relation to the postmortem interval. Survey on a 20-year period and review of the literature. Forensic Sci Int., 90(1-2):139-59. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(97)00154-0. PMID: 9438373.


Hodecek, J. (2020). Revisiting the concept of entomotoxicology. Forensic Science International: Synergy, 2, 282-286.


Introna, F., Campobasso, C. P., & Goff, M. L. (2001). Entomotoxicology. Forensic Science International, 120(1-2), 42-47.


Ishak, N., Ahmad, A.H., Mohamad Noor, S. et al. Detection of heroin metabolites at different developmental stages of Lucilia cuprina (Diptera: Calliphoridae) reared in heroin-treated meat: a preliminary analysis. Egypt J Forensic Sci 9, 65 (2019).


Jales JT, Barbosa TM, Soares VP, Gama RA (2021). Effect of Terbufos (Organophosphate) on the Cadaveric Colonization Process: Implications for Postmortem Interval Calculation. Journal of Medical Entomology.


Joseph, I., Mathew, D., Sathyan, P., & Vargheese, G. (2011). The use of insects in forensic investigations: An overview on the scope of forensic entomology. Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences, 3(2), 89.


Kintz, P., Godelar, B., Tracqui, A., Mangin, P., Lugnier, A.A., & Chaumont, A. (1990). Fly larvae: a new toxicological method of investigation in forensic medicine. Journal of forensic sciences, 35 1, 204-7.


Magni PA, Pazzi M, Vincenti M, Converso V, Dadour IR (2018). Development and Validation of a Method for the Detection of α- and β-Endosulfan (Organochlorine Insecticide) in Calliphora vomitoria (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Journal of Medical Entomology, 55 (1): 51-58.


Malejko, J., Deoniziak, K., Tomczuk, M., Długokencka, J., & Godlewska-Żyłkiewicz, B. (2020). Puparial cases as toxicological indicators: Bioaccumulation of cadmium and thallium in the forensically important blowfly Lucilia sericata. Frontiers in Chemistry, 8.


Paola A Magni, Tommaso Pacini, Marco Pazzi, Marco Vincenti, Ian R Dadour (2014). Development of a GC-MS method for methamphetamine detection in Calliphora vomitoria L. (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Forensic Science International, 241: 96-101.


Preußer D, Bröring U, Fischer T, Juretzek T (2021). Effects of antibiotics ceftriaxone and levofloxacin on the growth of Calliphora vomitoria L. (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and effects on the determination of the post-mortem interval. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 81: 102207.


Trivia AL, Carlos José de Carvalho Pinto (2018). Analysis of the Effect of Cyclophosphamide and Methotrexate on Chrysomya megacephala (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Journal of Forensic Sciences, 63 (5): 1413-1418.


Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). (2014, September 3). Blowfly maggots provide physical evidence for forensic cases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2021 from


Viero, A., Montisci, M., Pelletti, G., & Vanin, S. (2018). Crime scene and body alterations caused by arthropods: Implications in death investigation. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 133(1), 307-316.


Volckaert, H (2020)  Current Applications and Limitations of Forensic Entomology, Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science: 8(4).


Shiwen Wang, Changquan Zhang, Wei Chen, Lipin Ren, Jiang Ling, Yanjie Shang, Yadong Guo (2020). Effects of Methamphetamine on the Development and Its Determination in Aldrichina grahami (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Journal of Medical Entomology, 57 (3): 691-696.


Yi Zou, Ming Huang, Ruiting Huang, Xinwu Wu, Zhijie You, Jieqiong Lin, Xiaoyan Huang, Xiaoting Qiu, Sheng Zhang (2013). Effect of ketamine on the development of Lucilia sericata (Meigen) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and preliminary pathological observation of larvae. Forensic Science International, 226 (1): 273-81


Authors’ Bibliography 

Si Min
is a Year 4 Life Science student minoring in forensic science and public health. Her main role as a PM of forensic entomology is to help in the project’s programme planning and to hopefully raise more awareness on the application of forensic entomology in court.

Celine is a recent graduate of NUS pharmacy who is passionate in the fields of forensic toxicology (in all forms, including entomotoxicology) and psychology/psychiatry.

Nicole is currently pursuing a degree in Law and in the middle of her third year of the programme. She is aspiring to be a prosecutor one day, which sparked her interest in all things related to criminal law, including forensic science. 


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On July 24 2013, Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen voluntarily allowed herself to be interviewed, believing that she was helping to solve a child abuse case. However, she was coerced into falsely admitting a crime she had not committed through improper interrogation techniques, which destroyed her reputation in years to come. 

Unfortunately, her case is just one of many in the world. According to the Innocence Project, more than 360 wrongful convictions which were ultimately overturned by DNA evidence involved false confessions. A good portion of false confessions tend to be a result of improper interrogation techniques, showing the importance of having a set of best practices during interrogation. The purpose of a proper interrogation is not just to have criminals admit their involvements in crimes, but also to prevent wrongful charges on the innocent. 

As such, interrogation is one of the most crucial and fundamental components of questioning a suspect. An interrogation usually occurs once reasonable grounds for belief against a suspect have been established.

Image taken from:

Recently, behavioural analysis interviews have been treated globally as an important tool during an interrogation. There is no doubt that confessions are the most powerful pieces of evidence in the court of law, though there might be times where they end up corrupting the quest for truth. This occurs when interrogators have pre-existing presumptions of a person’s guilt and are just looking for confirmation of any sort (e.g. in the case of Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen).

But what does interrogation rely on? For the most part, some valuable and irreplaceable information still comes from face-to-face conversations across a table with interrogators relying on nothing more than intuition, experience, and a grab bag of passed-down methods. John E. Reid & Associates is one of the biggest interrogation trainers in the world, teaching thousands of police officers, intelligence operatives and private investigators every year. Their techniques are mostly based on the experience of the company’s founders, interviews with suspects after interrogations, and what would appear to be common sense. Yet, there are drawbacks in this well-known and widely-practised technique (known as the Reid Technique). 

While movies and TV shows often depict coercive techniques (such as the Reid Technique), the “good cop, bad cop” technique, or even intimidation/force being used in interrogation, such tactics can often increase the likelihood of false confessions. A study by Russano found that while inclusions of maximialisation (confronting with incriminating evidence) and/or minimalisation (down-playing the significance of the crime and allowing excuses for it) can increase the rates of true confessions, it can also increase the likelihoods of false confessions to even greater extents. 

The Reid Technique, which has been described as the gold standard of interrogation in the US, was first introduced in 1974 to replace tactics involving threats, beatings, and torture. It has seen been criticised for the high percentages of false confessions it has produced, as well as its various flaws. This includes  misclassification of a suspect’s truthfulness/deception during the behavioural analysis interview which occurs early on and requires snap judgements in a time of high pressure, coercive methods including psychological manipulation (e.g. implying guilt without evidence multiple times during the interview, deflecting denials or corrections by talking over the suspect, etc), and contamination of confessions with evidence that has not been released to the public. Further, the legalisation of the Reid Technique by the US Supreme Court in the case of Frazier v Cupp further complicates the situation by allowing the presentation of false evidence.

Third degree techniques (such as intimidation and torture) can contribute to fundamental attribution errors by resulting in even more stress, which can corrode endurance and ultimately affect memory and self-certainty. Between 2002 and 2009, with the authorization of officials in the Bush Administration’s White House and the Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and various components of the US Armed Forces launched a plan named ‘Enhanced Interrogation techniques’ or the ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ program. There was a long and detailed finding that waterboarding, extreme sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, wall-slamming and other techniques were not only harmful, but also counterproductive. These techniques constitute torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment – both illegal under US and international law. It is also clear that improper interrogation can result in the serious consequence of not being able to admit the confession obtained during the interrogation process as a piece of evidence. 

As such, it is important to know what techniques are useful and not useful in interrogation. 

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One such method is to allow the suspect/interviewee to be comfortable enough to share information, and build rapport with them. To illustrate this, researchers Laurence Alison and Emily Alison found that the interrogators that played the role of therapists were most likely to have the interviewees volunteer useful information. It should also be noted that people tend to obey perceived authority figures even if it goes against their morals, as seen from the Stanley Milgram studies, which is why making people more comfortable would be better than intimidating them. Environment also plays an important role in this aspect, with themes of openness and warmth making suspects/witnesses more comfortable and willing to open up. 

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A study by Russano et al (2015) found that by being sympathetic and flattering – such as by saying things like “I am sure you are a good person, and no one wants to be accused of cheating or breaking the rules”- but without playing down the seriousness of the offense or its potential punishment (contrary to minimization) could produce more true confessions that way with far fewer false ones. 

Another tactic would be to ask fewer questions. Fisher and Geiselman (1988) found that the more questions asked in an interview, the less likely a witness was to volunteer information, since he will just be waiting for the next question. Therefore, asking fewer questions would allow the interviewer to obtain more details while allowing suspects/witnesses to be more cooperative when confronted with inconsistencies between their statements and the evidence.

These tactics can all be converged in a Cognitive Interview that emphasizes open-ended questions. Here, witnesses are told to report everything they remember regardless of whether they think it is significant, and possibly give a sketch of the crime scene. Interviewers then prompt them by asking them to retell a sequence of events starting at different points or in reverse order or from different vantage points (e.g. from where they were at that moment). This results in a cognitive challenge for a liar but a sharpened recall for someone recounting actual experiences by shifting the context in a way that throws previously unnoticed details into relief. Case on point: a study by Fisher in 2013 showed that Federal Law Enforcement trainees were able to get 80 percent more relevant, accurate information using the Cognitive Interview than the traditional method they taught their students. 

Other interview techniques also include the Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure and Evaluate (PEACE) technique and Kinesic Interview. The PEACE technique is used in England and is less confrontational than the Reid Technique.It encourages the building of rapport, active listening, and allows the interviewee to make clarifications after the interviewer has summarized the case. Meanwhile, the Kinesic Interview method involves analyzing a person’s behaviour to assess deception. The method consists of over 30 practical kinesic principles, of which the “first and most important” principle is that “No single kinesic behaviour, verbal or nonverbal, proves a person is truthful or deceptive”. The other principles include both general statements of human behaviour (since it is easier to control verbal than nonverbal kinesic signals) and statements specifically focused on interview or interrogation techniques (e.g to attack a denial, the investigator should review the real or circumstantial evidence with the subject every 3 to 5 minutes). These older techniques can also be used for interrogation. 

In conclusion, many techniques for interrogation exist, with different techniques being used in different countries. While most of those used today have their place in interrogation, it is important to keep up with research on how to most accurately gain truthful confessions which are admissible to court. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


  1. Alison L and Alison E (2017). Revenge Versus Rapport: Interrogation, Terrorism, and Torture. American Psychologist, Vol. 72, No. 3, 266–277. 
  2. Edward Geiselman, R., Fisher, R.P (1988). The cognitive interview: An innovative technique for questioning witnesses of crime. JPCP 4, 2–5 (1988).
  3. Fisher, R. P., Vrij, A., Leins, D. A. (2013). Does testimonial inconsistency indicate memory inaccuracy and deception? Beliefs, empirical research and theory. In Cooper, B. S., Griesel, D., Ternes, M. (Eds.), Applied issues in investigative interviewing, eyewitness memory, and credibility assessment (pp. 173–190). New York, NY: Springer.
  4. Gehl, R., & Plecas, D. (2017, August 1). Chapter 9: Interviewing, questioning, and interrogation. Introduction to Criminal Investigation Processes Practices and Thinking. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
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  6. Horst Law. Horst Law: My Client – My Fight. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
  7. Supporters of declassifying the senate … – human rights first. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
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  9.  False confessions & recording of custodial interrogations. Innocence Project. (2022, January 11). Retrieved March 21, 2022, from
  10.  Bloomberg. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
  11. Duke, M., & Puyvelde, D. V. (2021, December 7). Analysis | ‘enhanced interrogations’ don’t work as well as regular ones. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
  12. Watch), K. J. (I. (2019, February 11). Controversial criminal interrogation technique under fire. Injustice Watch. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from 
  13. Richard Lettieri. (2021, November 18). Forensic psychologist Richard Lettieri on the many pathways to a false confession. CrimeReads. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from
  14. Russano, Melissa & Meissner, Christian & Narchet, Fadia & Kassin, Saul. (2005). Investigating True and False Confessions Within a Novel Experimental Paradigm. Psychological science. 16. 481-6. 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01560.x.
  15. Vrij, A., Fisher, R., Mann, S. and Leal, S. (2008), A cognitive load approach to lie detection. J. Investig. Psych. Offender Profil., 5: 39-43.

Authors’ biographies 

Celine Cheow is a recent graduate from NUS Pharmacy. Besides toxicology, she is also interested in forensic psychology and psychiatry as well. 

Kexu is currently doing his Master of Science in Forensic Science in NUS, he holds bachelor of law and bachelor of science in Food science & engineering. Before starting his master program, he worked in a leading law firm focusing on M&A, IPO and insolvency.


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Can drugs like cocaine make one turn violent after consumption? In September last year, a man (Andrew Ng Chuan Hock) was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment after he assaulted his elderly aunt and  swung a chopper at a healthcare assistant who came to check on his aunt. Investigations revealed that the man had likely consumed drugs at the time of the offence and the psychiatrist who examined him found him to be in a state of drug-induced psychosis at the time of the crime.  


This case is one of many across the world where substance abuse has been at the heart of violent crimes. In this article, we take a closer look at how and why cocaine in particular seems to encourage and perpetuate violent crime. 

Goldstein suggests three main reasons for how cocaine perpetuates violence – (1) systemic violence relating to drug distribution, (2) psychopharmacologically driven crime (a.k.a. drug-induced violent behaviour), and (3) economically compulsive crime (i.e. for money to support drug habit). We’ll focus more on (1) and (2) in this article.

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Systemic violence

Systemic violence has been found in the powder cocaine and crack distribution markets. This refers to violence perpetuated in the process of cocaine distribution, which can be seen as the black market equivalent of economic regulation (since such markets cannot rely on the legal system to enforce their agreements).

Some researchers believe that systemic violence is actually the main contributor to crack-related violent crimes. Such violence usually has one of two purposes – internally to discipline and control distributors along the hierarchy, and externally to protect selling territory for cocaine.

Psychopharmacologically driven crime

How does cocaine affect the brain in the first place?

Cocaine blocks the reuptake of several neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This creates a build-up of these neurotransmitters in the synapses (spaces between the axons and dendrites of two neurons). Of the neurotransmitters, the effects of dopamine play a particularly significant role in addiction to cocaine. 

While dopamine build-up happens throughout the neurons in the brain, an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens (NAc) seems to be particularly affected. Stimulation by dopamine causes neurons in the NAc to produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, whereby the amount produced by cocaine exceeds that of those caused by natural biological functions. This causes cocaine to be so addictive as the feelings of pleasure encourage repeated usage. 

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Additionally, cocaine also affects other areas of the brain such as the hippocampus and amygdala, otherwise known as the memory centres. These memory centres help people to remember what led to the feelings of pleasure (corresponding to the release of dopamine in the NAc). As such, when someone experiences a cocaine high, memories of the people, places, intense pleasure and other things associated with the drug-taking are imprinted in the hippocampus and amygdala. As such, returning to those places or even just encountering drug-related objects can already trigger the emotionally-loaded (and pleasurable) memories from previous cocaine uses and a desire to repeat the experience. 

In addition, cocaine also damages the frontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that would normally allow the recognition of negative effects and forgo pleasurable but possibly harmful experiences if necessary. In essence, the frontal cortex is what would enable people to stop taking drugs (or not take them in the first place). However, cocaine damages the frontal cortex of which ultimately damages its inhibitory function in preventing someone from taking cocaine. 


Cocaine can also affect a user’s mood even from the first use. Mood swings can result from frequent use. Since cocaine stimulates the nervous system, there are many symptoms of cocaine usage that contribute to violence – a feeling of invincibility, increased confidence, reduced inhibitions, and higher pain tolerance. Cocaine users are also prone to anxious, agitated, aggressive, and paranoid behaviour. These might be due to the effects of cocaine on the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which are relevant in psychiatric symptoms. 

Cocaine effectively encourages violent behaviour, either as a result of drug use or perpetuated by the user’s own expectation of such effects. 

However, psychopharmacologically driven crime may be the least important explanation for the relationship between cocaine and violent crimes. Studies have not shown cocaine use as a strong or sole cause for violent crimes as a result of psychopharmacological effects. 

Legal ramifications

Around the world, countries such as Portugal had decriminalised the personal use and possession of drugs like cocaine. Singapore, nevertheless, retains a strong stance against drug use and if one is caught with possession, consumption and trafficking of cocaine, there will be major legal ramifications attached, with the most severe consequences reserved for trafficking offences. 

This is because, as the High Court in  Dinesh Singh Bhatia s/o Amarjeet Singh v Public Prosecutor had observed, “withdrawal symptoms [of cocaine usage] were commonplace. It could also cause psychosis in the shape of a feeling of persecution, which might have extremely dangerous consequences.” This is the reason why the High Court was of the opinion that the “usage [of cocaine] cannot be countenanced or tolerated in any measure whatsoever [as] its potency and addictive allure have caused untold misery.” 

As such, the High Court took the position that the “need for deterrent sentencing in connection with cocaine-related offences is both axiomatic and compelling”, given that a “permissive culture of cocaine consumption cannot be allowed to take root in Singapore.” 


Cocaine is classified as a Class A drug in Singapore. Under section 8(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), consumption of any controlled or specific drugs (which includes cocaine) is an offence.  

The punishment for such is harsh as well.
The maximum penalty for engaging in such a behaviour includes 10 years of imprisonment, or a fine of $20,000 or both. Worse, under the MDA, those convicted of trafficking more than 30 grammes of cocaine face the death penalty.  

In conclusion, it is important to understand the serious legal ramifications of drug consumption in Singapore. Regardless of whether an individual is consuming the drugs and remaining within the confines of their home, or going on an assault spree, the law will not compromise its tough stance on drugs. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

  1. The Relationship between Cocaine and Violence. Life Works. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  2. United States Sentencing Commission. (1995, February). Cocaine & Federal Sentencing Policy.
  3. Carvalho, H. B. D., & Seibel, S. D. (2009). Crack cocaine use and its relationship with violence and HIV. Clinics, 64(9).
  4. Yusof, Z. M. (2020, February 10). Seven Weeks jail for samurai-wannabe for terrifying MRT commuters. The New Paper. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from
  5. Louisa Tang (15 September 2021). Over 5 years’ jail for chopper-wielding man who attacked elderly aunt, healthcare assistant. Today. Last retrieved 29 March 2022 from: Over 5 years’ jail for chopper-wielding man who attacked elderly aunt, healthcare assistant – TODAY 
  6. HBO. 2022. Euphoria | Official Website for the HBO Series | [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 February 2022]. 
  7. Eric J Nestler (2005). The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction. Sci Pract Perspect., 3(1): 4–10. doi: 10.1151/spp05314
  8. W. Alexander Morton (1999). Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 1(4): 109–113. 
  9. Zimmerman JL (2012). Cocaine intoxication. Crit Care Clin., 28(4):517-26.
  10. Wong Pei Ting (2 March 2018). Real victims of war against drugs not traffickers, but innocent children: Shanmugam. Last retrieved 25 March 2022 from: 
  11.  Dinesh Singh Bhatia s/o Amarjeet Singh v Public Prosecutor [2005] SGHC 63
  12. Mike Tan and Tiffany Tan (22 January 2020). Counting the Cost: Drug Abuse and Drug Crime in Singapore. Ministry of Home Affairs. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from:
  13. Central Narcotics Bureau (7 June 2021). New Release. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from: 
  14. Psychology Today (25 October 2021). Cocaine Use Disorder. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from: 

Author’s Biography

Nicole Teo is currently pursuing a degree in Law and in the middle of her second year of the programme. She is aspiring to be a prosecutor one day, which sparked her interest in all things related to criminal law, including forensic science

Yangyang is currently a freshman pursuing a degree in law. He has a strong interest in all aspects of crime, including both the criminal law and the forensic elements. 

Edited by: Celine Cheow and Cherylynn Tan


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Rape Drugs: An Introduction

What are in your drinks? The use of rape drugs to faciliate the commission of sexual offences has been something that is of a growing concern to countries in the Asian region lately. For one, Japan has recently experienced a surge in drug-related date rape while Hong Kong has recommended stiffer penalites for traffickers of a common date rape drug than that of traffickers of cannabis. Even locally, an Indian national had once spiked his flatmate’s drink with the plan of raping her afterwards while she was asleep. While it was fortitous that the victim had spat out the contaminated water after realising that it tasted bitter, the prevelance of the use of rape drugs is not something that should be taken lightly.

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Types of Common Rape Drugs

Any substance given to someone with the effect of lowering sexual inhibition and enhance the possibility of unwanted sexual intercourse can be used as a date rape drug. The most common types of date rape drugs used are Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and Rohypnol. These drugs are commonly mixed with alcohol and given to victims. Victims often lose consciousness and/or have their awareness of the surroundings drast

How Do Rape Drugs Affect Our Bodies?

Rape drugs works because they have chemicals in them that react with specific binding sites in the central nervous system (CNS). When a molecule binds to the site, the cells are able to take in the molecule and metabolise it, producing certain effects. The chemicals in rape drugs are similarly received via receptor sites that are able to recognise the shape of the molecules, and once this happens, the drug takes effect by depressing the action of the CNS, leaving victims with the common symptoms such as unconsciousness and a significantly reduced awareness of their surroundings. Details of some of the common drugs used to spike drinks are described shown below.

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Rohypnol, also known as Flunitrazepam, can take effect as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion. It is also relatively inexpensive and thus easy to obtain. Rohypnol belongs to a class called benzodiazepines, which bind to gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA-A) receptors that are responsible for most of the inhibitory neurotransmission in the CNS resulting in effects such as sedation and relaxation. People who have ingested Rohypnol become heavily sedated and can fall unconscious, thus allowing them to become easy pickings for predators. The effects of the drug can last up to 8 hours, and victims often are unable to recall their experiences while the drug is in effect.

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Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB for short, is a central nervous system ((CNS) depressant. It can be found naturally in mammals, and acts on both GHB-specific receptors and GABA-B receptors to relax the CNS through inhibitions of various mechanisms. GHB might also affect other neurotransmitter systems, such as the opioids, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine systems. It often comes in the form of a highly soluble sodium salt that can be ingested orally, either as a liquid or powder. The substance is commonly added to alcoholic beverages, and once ingested, can greatly enhance the effects of alcohol consumption, rendering the victim unconscious. The effects of GHB-induced sleep can last up to 5 hours, during which the victim might not awaken, making them vulnerable to assault. In addition, GHB is rapidly metabolised in the body, making it difficult to detect traces of the drug in the victim’s system if the crime is reported too late.

How do you know if your drink is spiked?

Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to detect if your drink is spiked. Most drugs used to spike alcoholic drinks are tasteless, colourless and odourless. Furthermore, a spiked drink could take 15-30 minutes before it shows any effect, but these effects could last for several hours. GHB interferes with GABAergic neurotransmission and this drug can be considered a GABA-B agonist. The neurons that release GABA are mostly localised in the hippocampus, cortex and amygdala. GHB receptors are located in these sites, in pre- and post-synaptic cells and show high affinity for these G-protein coupled receptors.

Some common symptoms of drink spiking are:
– Unusual drunkenness after drinking the same amount
– Blurred vision
– Dizziness, confusion
– Nausea and/or vomiting
– Difficulty breathing
– Muscle spasms or seizures
– Speech difficulties and slurring
– Hallucinations
– Tiredness
– Loss of consciousness
– An unusually long hangover
– A severe hangover when you did not drink alcohol
– Having gaps in your memory about what happened the previous night

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Legal Ramifications 

If rape has indeed been committed, the accused can be liable for rape under Section 375 of the Penal Code. Rape is made out when a man who penetrates the vagina of a woman (or the anus or mouth of another person) with his penis, without the latter’s consent. The punishment for rape is severe – if found guilty, an accused may be punished with an imprisonment for a term of up to 20 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.

Pertinently, the usage of date rape drugs to facilitate the commision of rape may be seen as an aggrevating factor by the courts, and such will be work against the accused’s favour during the sentencing stage. In the case of Public Prosecutor v Azuar bin Ahamad [2014] SGHC 149, the accused had spiked the alcoholic drinks of all four of his victims before committing rape on them. The accused had drugged his victims with Dormicum, a prescription drug frequently used to induce sleep, which caused the victims to lose consciousness. The High Court considered two aggravating factors. One, the court found that the offence was premeditated given that the accused spiked the victims’ drinks. Second, the High Court found the victims to be in a vulnerable state as they were unconscious when he committed the assaults. Taking these two factors into consideration, the court ultimately sentenced the accused to 37.5 years of imprisonment, and the statutory-maximum 24 strokes of the cane.

That said, even if no actual rape or sexual offence has been committed, the accused may still be liable under the law, for his act of spiking the victim’s drink. Recall that in the introduction article, we mentioned a case involving an Indian national, who spiked his flatmate’s drink, with the intention of raping her afterwards. While no sexual assault had been committed on the victim (because she spat out the water), the accused was nonetheless sentenced to 2 years and 10 months imprisonment and three strokes of the cane. This is because Section 328 of the Penal Code provides that it is an offence to administer poison or any stupefying or intoxicating substance on another person, with the intention of causing hurt to such person, or with the intention to facilitate the commission of an offence which the accused knows is likely to cause hurt. The punishment for such an offence is that of an imprisonment term which may extend to 10 years, coupled with a fine or caning.

Finally, it is noteworthy to point out that many commonly used date rape drugs, including GHB and Rohypnol, are also listed as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act (“MDA”). Under which, the mere possession of such drugs will cause one to be liable for an offence under the MDA, and the punishment for which involves an imprisonment term of up to 10 years, or a fine of $20,000, or both.


Date rape drugs are most certainly dangerous. Nonetheless, there are some suggested precautions that we can take to avoid falling victim to drink spiking. These include never accepting drinks from strangers, not leaving your drinks unattended, and throwing away the drink immediately if you find that it tastes odd. 

Additionally, if you suspect that you are a victim of drink spiking or sexual assault, do also reach out to your trusted friends and family for help, and contact the police for assistance. If required, do not hesitate to seek medical attention at a medical facility. There are also resources that you might want to consider approaching for help, if for instance, you require someone to listen to your concerns – and this includes AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) (telephone: 6779 0282; email: [email protected]).

Always remember: rape (or drink spiking) is never the victim’s fault – it is the result of the perpetrator’s choices and if found guilty, he will be severely punished for his actions.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

  1. Association of Women for Action and Research (2002). Date Rape: What is “Date Rape”? Last retrieved 22 March 2022 from:
  2. Bashforth, E. (2021, November 11). How to tell if a drink has been spiked. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from
  3. Christy Leung (8 January 2022). Hong Kong judges recommend harsher sentencing guidelines for traffickers of date rape drug than for cannabis culprits. South China Morning Post. Last retrieved 22 March 2022 from:
  4. Drink spiking in teenagers and how to avoid it. (n.d.). Positive Choices. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from
  5. Girard, A. L., & Senn, C. Y. (2008, January 1). The Role of the New “Date Rape Drugs” in Attributions About Date Rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(1), 3-20.
  6. Jalelah Abu Baker (6 June 2018). Man who spiked flatmate’s drink sentenced to jail, caning. Channel News Asia. Last retrieved 22 March 2022 from:
  7. Johnson, H. (2021, November 1). Signs you’ve been spiked by drink or injection, how you feel – and what to do. NationalWorld. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from
  8. Nicholson, K. L., & Balster, R. L. (2001, June 1). GHB: a new and novel drug of abuse. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 63(1), 1-22. 10.1016/s0376-8716(00)00191-5
  9. Schwartz, R. H., & Weaver, A. B. (1998, May 1). Rohypnol, The Date Rape Drug. SAGE Journals, 37(5), 321.
  10. Singapore Legal Advice. (2020, October 21). Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked? Retrieved January 8, 2022, from
  11. Ted O’Connell, Lily Kaye, and John J. Plosay III (2000). Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB): A Newer Drug of Abuse. Am Fam Physician.;62(11):2478-2482. 
  12. The Yomiuri Shimbun (7 March 2022). Japan records surge in drug-related date rape. The Japan News. Last retrieved 22 March 2022 from:

Authors’ Biography

Koon Ka Yiu Winnie is a Year 2 undergraduate from the Faculty of Science. She is pursuing a major in Chemistry and a minor in Forensic Science. She works in CJC-F’s Forensic Toxicology project. She is interested in the applications of chemistry in forensic science investigations. 


Lim Wei En, Wayne is a Year 1 undergraduate from the Faculty of Law. When not doing dreadful law-related work, Wayne spends his time playing frisbee, or binge watching entire seasons of K-drama on Netflix.

Wong Wai Xin is a Year 2 undergraduate from the Faculty of Science, pursuing a major in Chemistry. She is interested in the applications of chemistry and hopes to be able to educate and encourage students to gain interests in similar areas in future. Science can get pretty taxing, and she prefers to take time off when possible by reading and scribbling, on occasion. 

Edited by: Celine Cheow and Cherylynn Tan


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Legal limits of drink-driving 

Many people are aware that there is a  legal limit to how much alcohol we can have in our blood while driving – think roadblocks and breathalysers. But what exactly is the legal limit and why is it at this level?

There are broadly two ways  of measuring alcohol content – by taking the amount per 100ml of breath or  per 100ml of blood. The legal limit per 100ml of breath is 35 micrograms of alcohol, while the legal limit per 100ml of blood is 80 milligrams of alcohol. These limits, above which, typically correspond to some observable detrimental effects of alcohol on human cognitive function. 

How is blood alcohol concentration (also known as BAC) calculated? 

BAC is a measurement of the amount  of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. As alcohol is able to impair a person’s cognitive and psychomotor functions, knowing BAC can help infer the mental capacity  of a person at a specific time of interest. There are several factors affecting BAC, including one’s body size, physical conditions (including liver impairment and genetic polymorphisms), gender, age, the food consumed that day, type of alcohol, and amount of alcohol consumed (based on the volume of drinks and the percentage alcohol). These affect alcohol absorption and distribution in the body. As BAC increases, the level of alcohol-related impairment that one would experience expectedly increases. While the legal limit is set at a BAC level of 0.08%, at lower values there would also be effects which can impair one’s judgement. 

While there are legal limits to both blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and breath alcohol for drivers on the road ,breath alcohol has a higher tendency of being affected by external factors.

In some cases, BAC might not be taken immediately at the time  the offence of drink driving was committed. Thankfully, the BAC at the time of the offence can be estimated via two ways: (1) by multiplying the rate of alcohol metabolism with the duration between the time of offence and the time which the BAC was measured, and then adding that to the BAC that was measured; or (2) by multiplying the rate of alcohol metabolism with the duration between the time the alcohol was drunk and the time the offence was committed, and then deducting that from the calculated amount of alcohol drunk (this second method is only useful if the type(s) and amount(s) of alcohol the person had consumed is known). 

In general, the rate of alcohol metabolism is nearly consistent at around 0.016% per hour after  the person stops drinking. While there may be factors affecting alcohol metabolism such as eating before drinking, the increase in alcohol metabolism is marginal. As such, the BAC level at that time of interest can be calculated from a known BAC level based on the time passed even if it was not taken immediately at the time of the offence. Note that alcohol metabolism and alcohol absorption are different concepts. The rate of alcohol absorption can also affect the BAC level.


How BAC is affected 



Drinking the same amount of alcohol will result in a higher BAC level for an older person than a younger person.

Older age can decrease the percentage of water in the body.This can decrease the volume of distribution of alcohol since alcohol is hydrophilic (water-loving) which in turn increases BAC. 

Body size

Higher BAC level for people with low body weight. 

People with low body weight will have less water in the body as well. This decreases volume of distribution of alcohol, increasing BAC


Higher BAC if one was drinking on an empty stomach.

Drinking on an empty stomach will result in rapid gastric emptying and results in a faster absorption of alcohol into the blood

Type of alcohol

Higher BAC for drinks with higher ethanol content and for drinks with carbon dioxide content

Higher ethanol content and presence of carbon dioxide in drinks will increase absorption rate, leading to higher BAC levels

Alcohol percentage in drinks (%) by alcohol by volume (ABV)











Fortified wine




Unfortified wine


BAC can be calculated using the Widmark equation: 

BAC= [Alcohol consumed (g) x 100]/[body weight (g) x r]

The values of r are often taken to be  0.55 for females and 0.68 for males. This is due to the different percentages of water in males and females, with females having a lower percentage of water in their bodies. However, it is important to note that typical Widmark calculations may overestimate the BAC levels for heavy drinkers due to tolerance. and would be more reliable at lower alcohol consumption levels due to saturable metabolism kinetics. 


This graph shows the BAC level of a male in a controlled drinking experiment (0.8g/kg ethanol on an empty stomach over 20-30 minutes).

In forensic science, the following equation is often relevant in calculating one’s BAC a certain number of hours after starting to drink, known as BACt.  BACt=[ethanol consumed/(body weight x Vd)]-(βt), where β is the zero-order elimination rate from blood per hour for t hours since drinking started. Vd refers to the volume of distribution of alcohol in this equation, which is related to percentage of water in the body since ethanol is dissolved in water rather than other biological substances (e.g. fats). A higher Vd due to higher percentage of water in the body means that the BAC would be lower if the other factors are the same as someone with a lower Vd. 

Why is there a legal limit for alcohol when driving?

The extent to which a person’s cognitive and psychomotor functions is impaired by alchol depends on the BAC level. At a BAC level of 0.02%, there would be a decline in a person’s ability to track moving objects and to multitask. At a BAC level of 0.05%, there would be additional reduced coordination and response time to emergencies and difficulty steering. At 0.08%, one would experience a decline in ability to process information, lack of speed control, reduced concentration, short-term memory loss and impaired perception. At higher levels, some effects include impaired vehicle control, dysphoria predominates and loss of consciousness. 

Based on research, scientists determined that our coordination is noticeably impaired at a leve of 0.08%l. For instance, having a BAC over 0.08% impairs our ability to accurately retrieve  signals from our brains – to either our hands on the steering wheel or our feet on the brake pedal. 

In some cases, the defendant’s claims may be different from the evidence present. For example, a driver is stopped by the police after a social gathering and gives a positive breathalyser test. However, he claims that he did not consume alcohol and only consumed iced coffee. Eventually, it was found that the coffee was laced with Brandy. This is where a forensic toxicologist would come in. Forensic toxicologists can analyse biological specimens and determine alcohol and/or drug involvement in intoxication, suspected driving under the influence (DUI) and drug-facilitated crimes (e.g. rape, theft). They would be able to find and analyse the forensic evidence and come up with appropriate expert opinions on the case. 

Legal Consequences 

Under s 67 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA), a person is guilty of drink driving if he (1) is incapable of having proper control of the vehicle, or (2) has a blood alcohol level that exceeds the legal alcohol limit. This means that while BAC is relevant, even persons below the limit can be charged with drink driving if they are found to not have control over their vehicle.

Moreover, although an accused person’s alcohol content may be taken a substantial time after the offence, s 71 of the RTA states that the accused is presumed to have no less BAC than the specimen at the time of the offence. This presumption can be rebutted if the accused proves that he drank alcohol after driving without which he would have proper control of the vehicle or would not exceed the legal limit.

The RTA states that a fine between $2,000 – $10,000 (for first-time offenders) and/or an imprisonment term up to 2 years may be imposed for a drink-driving offence under s 67. There is also a mandatory disqualification period.

Given that higher BAC has more severe effects on the drinker and is therefore more dangerous, it is no wonder that the alcohol content level plays a part in sentencing considerations.  Under the amended RTA, the High Court held that the indicative range of fines and disqualification period would be as follows:

Level of alcohol (μg per 100ml of breath)

Range of fines

Range of disqualification



24–30 months



30–36 months



36–48 months

≥ 90


48–60 months (or longer)

As seen, the higher the BAC, the higher the level of culpability of an offender and therefore, the harsher the sentence. 

Nonetheless, there are two important things about this framework. Firstly,  this framework only applies to cases whereby no harm to person or property has eventuated. Secondly, the sentencing range provided in the framework are only neutral starting points. The court will also consider aggravating or mitigating circumstances relevant to the facts of each case, and a jail term could well be imposed if the former is present. 

Long story short, avoid drinking and driving! If you’re going out to drink, take a taxi or have a designated driver in place. No one’s life is worth the risk, and fines, disqualification and possibly imprisonment certainly aren’t worth it either.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

  1. IRB Law LLP. (2021, May 31). Drink Driving Penalties and Alcohol Limits in Singapore – IRB Law LLP. IRB Law. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  2. B.T. (2020, March 12). Blood Alcohol Content and the Legal Drinking Limit. Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from
  3. Low, S. (2017, November 23). Festive Drinking: How Much Alcohol Can I Have Before Driving? Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  4. Why and How Did .08 Become the Legal BAC Limit? (2019, December 11). Kanner & Pintaluga. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  5. ​​American Addiction Centers Editorial Staff (2022, January 5). .08: Why is this the “Magic” number? Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  6. Forensic toxicology: Forensic service providers: Forensic equity. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  7. DUI: Here are the penalties for drink-driving in Singapore. (2021, May 07). Retrieved January 14, 2022, from 
  8. DrinkFox. (n.d.). How long does alcohol stay in your system? DrinkFox. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from 
  9. Alcohol percentage contents of various beverages. Sunrise House. (2021, July 12). Retrieved February 24, 2022, from 
  10. Jones AW. Alcohol, its absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion in the body and pharmacokinetic calculations. WIREs Forensic Sci. 2019;1:e1340. 
  11. Rafael Voltaire Alzate v Public Prosecutor [2021] SGHC 224 at [31]-[33]
  12. Shouse California Law Group. Breathalyzer Accuracy vs Blood Test – Which is Better? Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from:

Author’s Biography

Nicole Teo is currently pursuing a degree in Law and in the middle of her second year of the programme. She is aspiring to be a prosecutor one day, which sparked her interest in all things related to criminal law, including forensic science. 

Ellione is a Year 2 Chemical Engineering student pursuing a minor in Forensic Science. She has a great  interest in toxicology and hence joined the Forensic Toxicology project to learn and understand more about how toxicology can be used in the law. As a project manager for Forensic Pathology as well, she works with her team to increase awareness and interest in this aspect.

Edited by: Celine Cheow and Cherylynn Tan


CJC-F, CJC-F Announcements, CJC-F Digital Forensics
In this issue:
• Digital forensics and its subfields
• Facts and myths about digital forensics
• Legal issues in digital forensics

6:00 AM on a Monday morning.
Bzzz… You swipe at your bleary eyes and reach for your smartwatch to shut the alarm.
Wash up, grab a bite, pick up items as you go.
Laptop, memory cards, smartphone. Check, check, and check.
Activate your home security system and off you go.
Down the requisite number of floors, past the closed-circuit television (CCTV) at the lift lobby, and finally into the comfort of your Grab car.
Clear some emails enroute and there you are, your e-wallet relieved of the ride fare.
Through the office entrance, past even more CCTVs, and finally into the meeting room where you link your laptop to the network and exhale in relief just as your boss inhales to speak.
Snatching glances at the smart coffeemaker in a corner, you count down to the first break.

DID YOU CATCH all the digital elements? Does it surprise you how connected we are?

Millennials might call it a blurse, a mixture of ‘blessing’ and ‘curse’. Digital technology brings us together while keeping us at a distance; the growing number of functions simplify yet complicate our lives; and when a crime happens, digital data can incriminate or vindicate.

DIGITAL FORENSICS IS a field within forensic science that involves the retrieval, preservation, and analysis of electronic data to assist in investigations and court processes (NIST, n.d.). This encompasses data from digital devices (e.g. computers, hard drives, mobile phones, portable storage media, motor vehicles, drones, CCTV) as well as digital platforms (e.g. cloud, network, Internet of Things, email). Regardless of the data type, the digital forensic methods used must be accurate, reliable, scientifically valid, and protect the integrity of the original data. However, the specific methods and challenges depend on the subfield of digital forensics we are concerned with.

Broadly, digital forensics can be thought of as comprising two subfields:

LOOK AT YOUR TRUSTY SMARTPHONE, sitting innocuously within reach or perhaps even in your hand as you are reading this. Your phone is an example of a host system. Troves of digital evidence are accumulated and transmitted with each tap you make, each message you receive. If we were to seize your phone right now, what might we find?

NOW, THE LAPTOP YOU BRING to school or work each day. What might we find there?

That’s a huge amount of digital evidence you’re carrying around, probably rivalled by the ton of questions circling your mind now. So, let’s correct some facts and bust some myths.


Since we have a rough idea of where to locate the pieces of digital evidence, an experienced digital forensic investigator would be able to solve a crime in a matter of keystrokes. Whoever said CSI was just drama!


Highlight for the answer ▼

[Start of answer] Unfortunately, this is fiction, and there are several reasons (NIST, 2006) for this:

Before even getting to analysis, the investigator has some hurdles to clear, one of which is to collect the data in a way that preserves its integrity.

The seized device may need shielding from external influences. This is done by placing it in a Faraday box to block any electromagnetic radiation which can alter the data on the device.

If the device is running, power sources need to be established so that the device does not shut down, taking with it any traces of volatile data. These measures take time to implement, making it unlikely that an investigator can launch into code-cracking immediately in good ol’ CSI fashion.

Acquiring the data may entail generating a byte-for-byte copy of the original media. Depending on the volume of data, the acquisition process could take minutes to more than a day. And the investigator has yet to examine the data, much less track down the evidence!

When the data is finally acquired, the investigator begins the arduous task of sifting through the mountain of information. Which files are of interest? For those that are encrypted, what is the password? How do we detect steganography, such as messages concealed within images? Encryption and steganography are examples of anti-forensics, as they are used to thwart forensic analysis and can be very challenging to resolve.

Assuming the investigator has successfully amassed critical evidence from the digital data, there is still a need to triangulate this with other sources of evidence, perhaps physical evidence like fingerprints. For example, a system log may show that a particular user had logged on to the computer. This is a good start, but other (possibly non-digital) evidence is needed to link the login activity to the person who was physically at the computer.

It is a long way from the collection of the media to examination of the data, to analysis of the information, and to reporting of the evidence. The keystrokes you were thinking of – these are only one part of the picture, and it is rare that just a few keystrokes would do the trick. [End of answer]

That’s a lot of work, and a lot of skill. I guess you need to have a solid understanding of computer science (or the like) to be a digital forensic investigator.
Highlight for the answer ▼

[Start of answer] Fact, a background in computer science or information security is usually a prerequisite for a digital forensics position. If you are curious, have a look on the Careers@Gov website. However, that does not mean you and I cannot learn to do digital forensic analyses. There are various open-source tools (e.g. Autopsy) that involve navigating a graphical user interface without knowledge of programming or coding. In fact, the authors of this article enjoyed using Autopsy despite having no prior experience in computer science or anything remotely similar. [End of answer]

So… If digital forensics is not that niche an area, then practically anybody can gather information about me whenever he/she wants. My personal privacy is at risk, and I don’t even know what digital traces I’ve left behind!
Highlight for the answer ▼

[Start of answer] Thankfully, this is fiction. Take for example the TraceTogether app which collects data on our identity and contact details, Bluetooth proximity, and app analytics (Gov SG, 2021). You can imagine how handy this information would be. However, the data is only accessible to authorised police officers by invoking the Criminal Procedure Code, and even then, only for the purpose of criminal investigation and national security in serious offences (Singapore Statutes Online, 2020). Otherwise, any breach of the data or usage beyond COVID contact tracing is subject to sanctions under the Public Sector Governance Act (CNA, 2021). If the data is obtained by someone through illegal means, it may not be admissible in court either. So, rest assured, your personal privacy is secure. [End of answer]

THE LEGAL ISSUES, of course, extend beyond the right to data access and are far more intricate.

On the most basic level, admissibility of digital evidence in court is subject to the same principles as physical evidence. The difference is in the medium of the evidence.

However, things get complicated as digital systems get increasingly mobile and remote. Cloud computing involves the distribution of digital infrastructure across the world, with many end users far removed from the geolocation of their data (Buyya, Vecchiola, & Selvi, 2013). There could be jurisdictional issues if specific laws apply in that location which are not exercised where the end user resides, or if there is a conflict of laws. These issues are still being ironed out. For example, a local model’s recent use of the OnlyFans online platform to post obscene content prompted the suggestion that ‘a Singaporean or a foreigner who uploaded [obscene] material overseas and subsequently enters Singapore could potentially be dealt with by the law’ (The Straits Times, 2022). Until there is greater clarity, digital forensic investigators will likely continue to grapple with such grey areas.

Even if localised in the same jurisdiction, legal challenges abound such as in the collection of network traffic. There may be privacy or security concerns about data (e.g. the passwords and email content of uninvolved persons) being unnecessarily exposed to investigators (NIST, 2006).

But just as there are legal challenges, there are also legal powers to deal with these challenges. Earlier on, we noted encryption as a form of anti-forensics. In Singapore, the law provides for police to direct a person to assist them (e.g. through provision of login details) in accessing a computer that is suspected to be involved in an arrestable offence. Failure to comply with such an order would constitute an offence under S 39(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code. Similarly, S 40(2)(c) of the Code confers power to the police to obtain decryption information from a person for the purposes of investigating an arrestable offence. Given the dynamism of digital technology, we can expect continuing evolution in the field of digital forensics and its associated laws.

NOW THAT YOU KNOW MORE about digital forensics, can you see yourself as an investigator?

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

  1. Buyya, R., Vecchiola, C., & Selvi, S. T. (2013). Chapter 11 – Advanced topics in cloud computing. In R. Buyya, C. Vecchiola, & S. T. Selvi (Eds.), Mastering cloud computing: Foundations and applications programming. Elsevier Inc.
  2. Channel News Asia. (2021, January 4). Singapore Police Force can obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations: Desmond Tan.
  3. Day, C. (2013). Chapter 72 – Intrusion prevention and detection systems. In J. R. Vacca (Ed.), Computer and information security handbook. Third edition. Elsevier Inc.
  4. Gov SG. (2021, July) TraceTogether FAQs. TraceTogether programme. Data privacy and permissions.
  5. National Institute of Standards and Technology. (n.d.). NIST. Forensic science. Digital evidence.
  6. National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2006, August). Special publication 800-86. Guide to integrating forensic techniques into incident response.
  7. SANS Institute. (2021, March 25). Windows forensic analysis.
  8. SANS Institute. (2021, April 15). Network forensics poster.
  9. SANS Institute. (2021, May 25). DFIR advanced smartphone forensics interactive poster.
  10. SANS Institute. (2021, June 1). DFIR memory forensics.
  11. Singapore Statutes Online. (2020, April 7). Republic of Singapore, Government Gazette, Acts Supplement. COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 (No. 14 of 2020).
  12. The Straits Times. (2022, January 9). Obscenity: OnlyFans content creators based overseas could be breaching Singapore law.

Authors’ Biography

Ng Phui Fun Sabrina is currently doing her Master’s in Forensic Science, with a prior background in psychology and education. She enjoys picking up new skills (the most recent being digital forensics), sometimes to the dismay of her family members as her curious tinkering has led to unintended outcomes such as rendering a brand-new phone unusable. Nonetheless, she keeps going…

Mitchell Leon Siu Kin graduated from the NUS Faculty of Law and completed a Minor in Forensic Science. He is currently a practice trainee and has embarked on his Master’s in Forensic Science at NUS. He is also the longest serving CJC member in history. Mitchell aspires to be a criminal defence lawyer and continues to further his knowledge of forensic science in preparation for the courtroom battles ahead.

Harvinder Kaur is currently pursuing a Master’s in Forensic Science. She previously graduated from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor’s in Science, Major in Biomedical Sciences. She volunteers as a Lead Researcher with Women Unbounded during her spare time.

Muhammad Khairul Fikri is a Year 4 undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He Majors in Geography and Double Minors in Forensic Science and Geographical Information Systems. Khai enjoys research and has completed several projects that integrate his fields of study. His focus is on finding novel applications of technology to help solve crime. He is also the Project Manager for the Virtual CSI Project.

CJC-F, CJC-F Announcements, CJC-F Forensic Toxicology

Forensic toxicology refers to the analysis of medications/drugs, poisons, and other substances in a medico-legal context. It is a multidisciplinary field that includes areas such as pharmacology, analytical chemistry, to name a few. 

Image taken from:

Forensic toxicology: fact vs fiction 

While TV shows like CSI, Bones, and NCIS might portray forensic toxicology as an isolated field where forensic toxicologists use high-tech equipment to nail down perpetrators in days, the reality is quite different from that. Contrary to popular belief, forensic toxicologists often work closely with specialists from other forensic teams, such as forensic pathologists, forensic pharmacologists, and forensic chemists. Tests usually take longer than mere days to run, with conclusions being reached after four to six weeks in some cases due to the sheer number of steps and the number  of samples to run, to name a few. 

Image taken from:

Another misconception some people might have would be that forensic toxicology is carried out  only on dead people. This, however, is far from the truth- a large proportion of forensic toxicology involve living people, as long as  it involves the application of toxicology in a medico-legal perspective. Examples of forensic toxicology applications include criminal and coroner investigations of poisoning, drug use and death, as well as in suspected cases of doping in sports, inhalant or drug abuse, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the effects of a person’s performance or behaviour and ability to make rational judgement. Yes, toxicology is a large and exciting field! 

In addition, people might often associate forensic toxicology with just illicit drugs, alcohol, and poisons. However, this is not always the case- everyday medications might also be involved as doses and indications might result in toxic or abusive potential. For example, paracetamol (more commonly under the brand Panadol) can cause liver failure and death at high enough doses. Insulin, a medication used for both types of diabetes (and absolutely essential in Type 1 diabetes, where the body is unable to produce its own insulin due to the destruction of the cells producing it), was once used in at least one murder case (e.g. involving murderer Beverley Gail Allitt). Meanwhile, medications commonly used for ailments such as (but not limited to) asthma (salbutamol, salmeterol, terbutaline, formoterol, vilanterol, etc), anemia (Erythropoietin receptor agonists), hypertension and heart failure (various diuretics and beta-blockers), ADHD (methylphenidate), and painkillers (corticosteroids and legal opioids), may be abused in sports to boost individual performance, an occurrence known as doping. 

Image taken from:

How  do forensic toxicologists carry out their analyses then? Briefly, in forensic toxicology, biological samples- most commonly blood, urine, hair- are tested for the presence of substances, and inferences are then drawn about a substance’s potential effect on an individual’s death, illness, or mental or physical impairment. Such inferences of the substance’s effects on legal outcomes would depend on the type(s) of substance(s) and their amounts. Various types of instruments are often employed. (If you’re interested in how these are done, as well as the pros and cons of various types of samples and instruments, do check out our past articles about them!) 

Pharmacokinetics vs pharmacodynamics. Image taken from:

Forensic toxicology taps on the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of a drug/substance. Pharmacokinetics refers to what the body does to the drug, and constitutes four processes- absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination. These are relevant in identifying and quantifying drugs/substances that were consumed, and in some cases can be quite complex. Meanwhile, pharmacodynamics refers to the effects each drug/substance has to the body, which come into play in identifying how the drug(s)/substance(s) could have affected a person’s behaviour, capacity (mental and physical), or even death. 

Are you excited to learn more about forensic toxicology after hearing all these? Wait no further!

A sneak peek into our upcoming content 

In the coming weeks, our articles dive into the application of  forensic toxicology in crimes. 

Image taken from:

The first substance  that we will be discussing is alcohol. We are all aware that if we are caught driving when our blood alcohol levels exceed the prescribed legal limits, we will find ourselves in trouble with the law for drink driving. But have you ever wondered why can’t we drink and drive? And what factors affect our blood alcohol levels? Our article will explain the science behind drink driving – how alcohol affects our mind and movement, as well as break down the laws regarding drink driving. 

Not only should we be wary of the chemical constituents of alcoholic beverages , but also what we might ingest, intentionally or not. Did you know? A retired forensic scientist in Singapore had once laced  a bottle of drinking water with pesticide, eventually killing an unintended victim who drank the contaminated water. In another instance, a male subject had secretly added two poisons (whom he thought were love potions) into a woman’s water bottle, in hopes that the woman would fall in love with him after drinking the tainted water. Clearly, spiking is still a very real occurrence till today. With the rise of sexual related offences, our second article focuses on rape drugs and its impact on our bodies. Have you also ever wondered whether it is a crime to use rape drugs even if no actual rape has been committed? Stay tuned to our article to find out more! 

Image taken from:

While rape drugs are most certainly dangerous, not all drugs are harmful. Drugs are more commonly used for therapeutic purposes  – of which many are frequently used to treat illnesses and diseases. Nonetheless, drugs are a problem if they are misused. The case of
PP v Lim Hou Peng Jackson illustrates this principle perfectly – in the court’s words, “[t]his case shows how the consumption of illegal drugs can sometimes lead to very sad and fatal consequences which were never intended”. In this case, the accused and the deceased were in a relationship and one night, the deceased died while she was staying over at the accused’s flat. Forensic toxicology was employed in the present case – the presence of Methamphetamine was detected in the accused’s urine sample and methamphetamine was also detected in the deceased’s peripheral blood  sample, bile and stomach contents. It turned out that the deceased began to behave erratically after consuming the drug. In an attempt to stop her from screaming and prevent both of them from getting into trouble with the law for drug consumption, the deceased, unfortunately, exerted too much pressure on the deceased in the process, thereby strangulating her. Why exactly do drugs cause behave erratically or violently after consumption? Our third article answers this question in relation to a specific drug called cocaine. 

In conclusion, forensic toxicology is a very interesting field which has many legal applications. The three articles showcased this year would give you a sampling of just some of the things forensic toxicology can do. Hope you look forward to them! (And that you’ll be interested to learn more in the future as well!) 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


Queensland Health (24 April 2019). Real stories of life and death: why forensic toxicology is nothing like TV. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from:

Lee Lofland (12 March 2012). 10 Forensic myths spread by TV. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from:

World Anti-Doping Agency. World Anti-Doping Code: International Standard Prohibited List 2021. Last retrieved 2 March 2022 from:

Zaihan Mohamed Yusof and Clement Yap (19 July 2014). MRT ‘samurai’ jailed. AsiaOne. Retrieved 2 March 2022 from: 

Public Prosecutor v Quek Loo Ming [2002] SGHC 171 

Public Prosecutor v Lim Hou Peng, Jackson [2016] SGHC 53

Elena Chong (19 January 2016). Man who put ‘love potion’ into woman’s water bottle fined $1,500. The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 March 2022 from:  


Author’s Biography
Cherylynn Tan is a Year 2 undergraduate from the Faculty of Law and she is keen on exploring the interplay between drugs, alcohol and crime. As one of the project managers for the Forensic Toxicology project, Cherylynn oversees the project group’s timeline and vets articles relating to forensic toxicology. 

Celine is a recent graduate from NUS Pharmacy. As a project manager of the forensic toxicology team, she guides the team with her knowledge of drugs, and edits articles relating to forensic toxicology. 



CJC-F, CJC-F Activities, CJC-F Announcements

Forensic entomology denotes the study and application of insects and other arthropods as evidence in a legal investigation. The earliest recorded use of insects in a criminal investigation goes back to the 13th century in China. It was detailed by a Chinese lawyer and death investigator, Sung Tzu in his book titled: The Washing Away of Wrongs. It was said that a male farmer was found murdered in a rice field. The day after the murder, the investigator told all workers to lay down their sickles on the floor. From the many sickles, only one sickle attracted blow flies to it, and it was attributed to the invisible traces of blood present. When confronted, the owner of the sickle confessed to the crime.


Currently, there are three general subsets recognised under forensic entomology: urban forensic entomology, medicolegal forensic entomology and stored-product forensic entomology. Some applications of forensic entomology include: (a) estimating minimum Post Mortem Interval (mPMI), (b) determining body relocation, (c) identifying traumatic injury sites on body, (d) determining possible abuse and/or neglect and (d) forensic entomotoxicology.

(a) PMI Estimation 

PMI is defined as the time between the death of an individual and corpse discovery. Within the first 72 hours, classical forensic techniques for PMI estimation, such as rigour mortis and livor mortis, which are natural processes associated with decomposition, can be used. However, after 72 hours, these techniques become inaccurate. Instead, insects now become a powerful tool for estimating the minimum time that has passed since death. Depending on how accessible the body is and its surrounding conditions, necrophagous insects or insects which feed on corpses will promptly colonise the body. To estimate PMI, forensic entomologists can either infer from the growth rate of pioneer colonisers on the body or from the predictable succession pattern of different insect species during the decomposition of the body.

(b) Determining body relocation 

This application is based on the fact that different geographic regions carry different insect species that are location specific. As such, in different environments and habitats, insect species found on a decomposing body will differ. Therefore, if a corpse has been disposed of away from the place where the crime has originally taken place, forensic entomology can be used to determine the path of travel of potential vehicles involved with a crime due to species variation in different geographic regions and certain insect species do not deviate from those locations. For instance, some insects are more prevalent in indoor spaces rather than outdoor spaces.

(c) Identification of traumatic injury sites 

Analysis of the distribution of insects on deceased remains may allow forensic entomologists to determine whether the trauma or injury was inflicted perimortem (at or close to time of death) or postmortem (after death). Such inferences of trauma can be supported by where insects have colonised on the body since specific insects like flies are drawn to blood and can produce a quick consumption of soft tissues in that region. However, an experienced forensic entomologist is required in order to tell apart postmortem insect artifacts from antemortem or perimortem injuries.

(d) Determining periods of abuse and/or neglect 

Forensic entomology is not limited to use with the dead; it can also be applied in cases of neglect or abuse involving the living, primarily children or the elderly and sometimes animals. Head lice and maggots are notable specimens in such cases, often appearing in large quantities. Neglected individuals tend to have untreated injuries or live in unhygienic conditions, large maggot colonies to form and feed on dead or dying tissues. From the development time of the maggots, the minimum time that elapsed since the affected individual last had for instance, a clean diaper change or wounds cleaned, can be calculated.

(e) Forensic Entomotoxicology 

Forensic entomotoxicology studies the application of toxicological analysis to carrion-feeding insects like blow fly larvae in order to detect drugs and toxins present on intoxicated tissues of decomposing corpses. As such, forensic entomotoxicology can be used to aid in determining the cause of death. Entomotoxicology also investigates the effects caused by such substances on arthropod development in order to assist in PMI estimation. As larvae feed on the tissues of an individual who took drugs or was poisoned, they will consequently also ingest small amounts of these substances as well as their metabolites. Depending on the type of ingested drugs, larval development rates may be delayed. The use of forensic entomotoxicology is especially useful when the corpse is in an advanced stage of decomposition whereby blood, tissues and fluids are no longer available for analysis. The most representative specimens can be collected and analysed after homogenisation via common toxicological methods such as gas chromatography and thin layer chromatography.


Given the various uses of forensic entomology, this forensic field is an exciting one for budding forensic scientist to learn about. Stay tuned to our next forensic entomology article which will zoom in on forensic entomotoxicology!

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


Anderson, G. S.  (2004).  Forensic  entomology:  The use  of  insects  in death  investigations.

Amendt, J., Richards, C. S., Campobasso, C. P., Zehner, R., & Hall, M. J. (2011). Forensic entomology: Applications and limitations. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 7(4), 379-392.

Benecke M (2014). Arthropoda and Corpses. Forensic Pathology Reviews, Vol. 2, Chapter 10, Pages 207-240.

Benecke, M. (2001). A brief history of forensic entomology. Forensic Science International, 120(1-2), 2-14.

Byrd, J., & Sutton, L. (2020). Forensic entomology for the investigator. WIREs Forensic Science, 2(4).

Campobasso, C. P., & Introna, F. (2001). The forensic entomologist in the context of the forensic pathologist’s role. Forensic Science International, 120(1-2), 132-139.

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Authors’ Bibliography 

Si Min
is a Year 4 Life Science student minoring in forensic science and public health. Her main role as a PM of forensic entomology is to help in the project’s programme planning and to hopefully raise more awareness on the application of forensic entomology in court.

Celine is a recent graduate of NUS pharmacy who is passionate in the fields of forensic toxicology (in all forms, including entomotoxicology) and psychology/psychiatry.

Nicole is currently pursuing a degree in Law and in the middle of her third year of the programme. She is aspiring to be a prosecutor one day, which sparked her interest in all things related to criminal law, including forensic science.