Briton held on failed warrant

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IAN MacKINNON

A 48-year-old woman has been held for three weeks on an international warrant which failed in the British courts three years ago after being arrested on a day trip to France.

Brenda Price, who is detained at Loos prison in Lille, is accused of involvement in a plot to smuggle hashish into Spain in 1991, when she was allegedly seen handing over the keys of a lorry said to have been used in the crime.

Four British men were arrested and convicted after police found the Moroccan drugs stored at a Spanish villa.

An arrest warrant for Mr Price, 48, was issued in October 1992 and she was arrested at her home in Harlow, Essex, the following January.

She was held in Holloway jail in London for four weeks as the Madrid authorities prepared the extradition papers, but at a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court the proceedings failed when the papers failed to arrive on time. Spain has made no further attempts to pursue the warrant and Mrs Price has travelled abroad a number of times without incident.

However, on 5 October, Mrs Price, her husband, Sam and a friend went to France for the day, crossed the border into Belgium and were stopped by police on the way back for a routine passport check.

Computer records revealed the Interpol warrant and she was arrested. The British consulate and her lawyer, Bernard Thompson, have visited Mrs Price several times but say the Spanish have provided no further information.

Mr Price, a market trader, said: "I know she'll be in a terrible state. I don't know how all this can happen after so long. She is totally innocent and had already been discharged by the court here because the Spaniards didn't want to proceed with the case."

But the Home Office said the Spanish would have been within their rights to reactivate their extradition attempts.

A spokesman at the Foreign Office said it was investigating the possibility of pressing the Spanish to move the matter forward speedily.

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