The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency controlling interests of the UK overseas, has reported a 6% increase in number of British nationals stepping outside of local laws overseas, compared to last year’s figures.
The FCO has reported that between April 2011 and March 2012, it has handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals, compared to 5,700 cases handled in the earlier year. There has been also an increase in drug arrests by 2%, year over year, with around 816 cases being reported to FCO handling during the same period.
The UK’s 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.’
FCO has reported that the highest number of drug-related cases have been found in Spain and the US, with around 70% of the cases being reported from countries such as Jamaica, Serbia, Peru and Brazil.
David Thomas, the consular regional director covering 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.’