- 25 Nov 2013 8:00 AM
The zero-tolerance approach of some countries often results in strict penalties which can come as a shock to British travellers. In Hungary 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. Some nations detain offenders for long periods of time, over a year in some cases, before their case is heard.
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.
Prisoners Abroad is currently supporting 84 Brits between the ages of 18 and 30 who are being held in foreign countries for drugs offences – 62 are yet to face a trial.*
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 called “Drugs: Mess up. Miss out” to warn others not to make their mistakes: search for it on youtube or on the following link http://youtu.be/IqtWoNBk4GQ
Even in Hungary, the consequences of being detained for a drugs offence can be devastating.John Lindfield, Consular Director for Northern and Western Europe 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.
If you or someone you know is involved with illegal drugs in any way, then the message is clear: the consequences are simply not worth it.”
More information on the help you get from the FCO if you are arrested abroad can be found on www.gov.uk.
What can the FCO do for people who have problems when travelling abroad?
The FCO can:
• Issue you with an emergency travel document
• Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
• Contact friends and family back home for you if necessary
• Provide information about transferring funds
• Visit you in hospital or if you have been arrested
The FCO cannot:
• Help you enter a country if you don’t have a valid passport or necessary visas
• Give you legal advice
• Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people but will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
• Pay any bills or give you money
• Make travel arrangements for you