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Getting involved with drugs abroad
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released figures showing that 850 Britons are currently imprisoned overseas for drug-related offences.
'Zero tolerance' approach to drug offences abroad
What might be a cautionary offence in the UK will not necessarily be treated the same way internationally.
The 'zero tolerance' approach to drugs in some countries means that penalties for drug offences abroad can be considerable - ranging from lengthy prison terms of up to 39 years to the death penalty.
There are also reports of suspects being detained without trial for several months and, occasionally, in very harrowing prison conditions.
Consequences of drug offences overseas
- Peru: in excess of 30 people from the UK are in prison for drug offences. A recent case involved Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, who eventually pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Peru in August 2013. The pair face imprisonment terms of at least six years and eight months
- United Arab Emirates: possession of even the smallest quantity of illegal substances can lead to a minimum sentence of four years' imprisonment as a drug trafficker
- Thailand: possession of (or even testing positive for) a Class A drug (such as crack cocaine or ecstasy) can result in conviction as a trafficker, which can attract a death sentence
- Indonesia: individuals caught with drugs in their possession face long prison sentences or the death penalty, more often than not following a protracted and expensive legal process.
Thailand and Indonesia aside, convicted drug smugglers can be sentenced to death in 31 countries worldwide.
Whilst the British Consul can provide assistance to Britons detained overseas on drug offences, it cannot interfere in the process of law. In other words, the Consul is unable to:
- provide legal advice
- secure release from prison
- obtain prison conditions better than those experienced by locals or other nationals.
Crime Reduction Initiatives is a charity registered in the UK which has the goal of promoting safer and healthier communities. The charity operates a number of different initiatives, usually within areas of the country that have been subject to high levels of crime or drug abuse.
Extradition is the legal process whereby someone is removed from one country and transferred to another against their will. It is covered by the Extradition Act 2003. The procedure may be used for the purpose of criminal prosecution; if someone has been convicted of a crime and needs to be sentenced; or if a sentence has already been imposed (and evaded) and needs to be carried out.
Social media has exploded over the past decade with the internet enabling people to contact each other from all over the world instantly and often. Whilst the thriving nature of social media has brought numerous advantages, inevitably there have been some negative effects.
If a British national is arrested or detained overseas, the local British Consul will try to help. The Consul cannot get you out of jail, but will take action if your rights have been denied or abused.
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If you download a song, film, game or software from a file-sharing website or another website (such as a page on a social-networking site) where it's made available, and you do not pay for the item or otherwise obtain it under licence from the copyright holder, then you are infringing someone's copyright.