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Britons urged to avoid taking risks with the law

Go Local - July 2012

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CHARTBritons urged to avoid taking risks with the law – arrests in Spain rise 9% last year Alcohol-related incidents cause concern

Around half of those arrested under the age of 34

New figures reveal that between April 2011 and March 2012, British Consulates in Spain handled 1,909 arrests cases involving British nationals, a 9% increase on the previous year. The total included 141 arrests for drugs offences.

The figures are part of a worldwide increase of 6% in Britons arrested overseas, with a total of 6,015 cases against 5,700 in the previous year. Drug arrests worldwide increased by 2%, with the FCO handling 816 cases.

Minister of State for Consular Affairs, Jeremy Browne, said:

"It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. Whilst we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system.

"We find that many people are shocked to discover that the FCO cannot get them out of jail. We always provide Consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."

The statistics, released in advance of the full British Behaviour Abroad report next month, show that Spain and the USA continue to show the highest cases of arrests, with Spain showing a 9% increase on the previous year.

Anecdotal evidence from Embassies and Consulates suggests many incidents are alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands, as well as Malta and Cyprus.

Consular staff around the world spend 35% of their time handling cases of Britons who have been arrested or imprisoned. Many have unrealistic expectations of what the FCO can do for them and Brits – particularly youngsters about to embark on summer holidays – should think hard about the consequences of running into trouble with the law.

David Thomas, Consular Regional Director for Spain, said:

"The police on Mallorca and Ibiza have a zero tolerance attitude towards alcohol-fuelled offences and we see many young people being arrested for causing trouble outside bars and clubs at night.

"All too often they think they'll spend the night in a cell sleeping off their hangover before being let out in the morning. They soon sober up when they realise their British passport does not grant them immunity and they're alone in a foreign prison cell, unsure of when they'll be released and unable to speak to officers because they don't speak the language.

"It's particularly sad to see younger people throwing away years of their lives, often as a result of a risky decision made in the heat of the moment and after a few too many drinks. Not only can you end up with a criminal record but the effects on your family can be devastating."

The Consulate in Palma, Mallorca saw the largest increase in arrests last year, while Alicante continues to have the highest total. Drug arrests are greatest on Ibiza (46) and in the Malaga region (34).

Consulate Arrests 2010/11 Arrests 2011/12 Percentage change

 

Consulate

Arrests 2010/11

Arrests 2011/12

Percentage change

Alicante

507

554

+9%

Barcelona

55

63

+15%

Ibiza

179

193

+8%

Las Palmas

168

184

+10%

Madrid

115

103

-10%

Malaga

394

380

-4%

Palma

195

320

+64%

Tenerife

134

112

-16%

TOTAL

1747

1909

+9%