Foreign drug offences could lead to imprisonment, Foreign Office

The UK Foreign Office has launched a campaign to highlight the painful consequences of being involved in drug offences overseas, The Telegraph has reported.

Presently, more than 850 British nationals are serving terms for such offences in prisons around the world, in distressing conditions and often without being given clear dates for a trial, the Office has warned. The Prisoners Abroad charity said it is currently supporting 80 Britons between the ages of 18 and 30 held on drugs offences, with two-thirds of the detainees still waiting to be heard in court. The other third are serving sentences that range from a year to nearly 39 years.

Some countries and authorities employ a zero-tolerance approach that results in strict penalties for those convicted. For example, in Indonesia this year, a 57-year-old British grandmother was sentenced to death by firing squad for carrying cocaine in a suitcase. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of any illegal drugs are serious offences in Indonesia.

In countries like Thailand, possession of even very small quantities of drugs can lead to imprisonment. Possession in excess of 20 grams of a Class A drug could deem one a trafficker and could potentially lead to a death sentence.

In the United Arab Emirates, sentences for drug trafficking for possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession.

More than 30 British nationals are currently in prison in Peru for drugs offences. Drug smugglers face long terms of imprisonment -two young British women charged with cocaine smuggling are currently facing a minimum of six years in prison.

Mark Simmonds, minister for consular affairs, said. ‘In the last year alone consular staff handled over 650 drug-related cases. When it comes to drugs our message is clear – don’t take risks, the consequences are simply not worth it.’

Pauline Crowe, chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, also urged people to consider the unhygienic conditions, overcrowded cells, non-availability of food and clean water and the constant threat of disease before getting involved in drugs. Prisoners ‘may have to live through these conditions for many, many years,’ she said.

New Zealand drug rules come into effect on Saturday

New Zealand’s new drug rules are to come into effect on Saturday.

Especially meant for the adventure-tourism sector, the new rules are expected to prevent accidents that in recent times have claimed the lives of tourists as well as tourist operators. The need for a new rule was envisaged after a number of tourism workers involved in recent accidents were later found to have had cannabis in their systems. Tourism agencies said that adventure tourism operators have to strengthen the way they manage drug and alcohol-related safety risks under the new rules.

The rules are strict in nature and contain harsh requirements that operators would have to comply with. They empower officials to periodically check adventure tours’ drug and alcohol management programmes. The new rules are expected to reduce risk and maintain the reputation of New Zealand as a safe tourism destination, said acting labour minister, Chris Finlayson.

Finlayson said, ‘This is a strong message to adventure tourism businesses that risks associated with drug or alcohol impairment must be taken seriously. The crucial thing is every operator will have to demonstrate why their procedures are appropriate.’

Many recent accidents in adventure tourism programmes in the nation were related to drugs and banned substances. In January the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) found that the pilot of a balloon that crashed in Wairarapa killing 11 people had used cannabis. There are a number of similar cases where operator negligence is believed to have led to the loss of lives.