News Spain - Dec 2013

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Hundreds of British nationals are currently locked up in prisons across the globe for drug-related offences, often detained for months without trial and facing distressing living conditions. In Spain, consular staff dealt with over 100 drug-related arrests last year alone and drugs offences account for approximately three-quarters of the 172 Brits currently on remand or serving sentences in Spain.

Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in conjunction with the charity Prisoners Abroad, is launching a campaign to highlight the consequences of the use, possession and smuggling of drugs in Spain and countries around the world.

The zero-tolerance approach of some countries often results in strict penalties which can come as a shock to British travellers. In Spain offenders may, in some circumstances, be held on remand for over a year before their trial. Even if released on bail, they will be unable to leave the country.

Offences that may carry cautions in the UK are often penalised with long prison sentences overseas. Some drug crimes can lead to even more severe penalties – 33 countries or territories enforce death sentences for drug offences**. In Spain, sentences can be as long as 20 years' imprisonment in the case of hard drugs and up to 6 years and 9 months for soft drugs, with fines of up to six times the value of the drugs.

Prisoners Abroad is currently supporting 84 Britons between the ages of 18 and 30 who are being held in foreign countries for drugs offences – 62 are yet to face a trial.*

Here in Spain, the consequences of being detained for a drugs offence can be devastating, Will Middleton, Consular Director for Spain, comments:

"Being sent to prison overseas away from family and friends is very distressing and even more so if you don't speak the language. We see people of all ages - from youngsters through to pensioners - who have lost their friends, their job, had to give up their studies or had their children taken into care and got into major financial difficulties because they did not think they would get caught.

"In the last year alone consular staff in Spain handled over 100 drug-related cases. If you or someone you know is involved in the illegal drugs trade, then the message is clear – the consequences are simply not worth it."

Terry Daniels and Billy Burton are two British nationals that have seen valuable years of their life spent in prisons overseas. Terry was sentenced by a Spanish court to 10 years in prison for drug smuggling on the basis of guilt by association, while Billy was charged with smuggling marijuana out of the Philippines. Both want to see the number of Britons involved in drugs in other countries reduced and have described their experiences in a video to warn others not to make their mistakes.