Family claim trafficker `failed by Government'

Fate of British heroin smuggler jailed for 22 years depends on clemency of King of Thailand after Foreign Office refuses to intervene
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The Independent Online
THE KING of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), is due to make a decision within the next few days that will decide the destiny of a 34-year-old British woman being held in a prison in Kent.

Unless the King agrees to grant her a pardon, Sandra Gregory will serve a 22-year jail term for an offence which, had it been committed in Britain, would have been punished by no more than four years.

A recommendation for clemency from the British government would be likely to improve her chances of a successful appeal. But The Independent has learnt that, after two and a half years of deliberation, Foreign Office officials have decided to abandon the former English teacher to her fate.

In a letter to Gregory's parents, the Foreign Office minister Baroness Scotland says the case lacks the "compassionate grounds" to justify government interference.

Stan and Doreen Gregory are distraught.

Mr Gregory said last night: "Baroness Scotland signed her letter with `regret and sympathy' yet said there were no grounds for compassion in our case. We believe that the Government is operating double standards. Under the laws they set, a four-year sentence would be appropriate, yet they are condoning a sentence of 22 years."

Baroness Scotland told the Gregorys that her officials had carried out "an extremely delicate balancing exercise" and that the issues "were not easy", but that Britain had to respect the "laws, customs and culture" of other countries.

Sandra Gregory, who had been working in Thailand as an English teacher, was arrested while trying to board a flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, carrying 89 grams of heroin. She claimed to have committed the crime to raise money to fly home for medical treatment.

She said she had been carrying the drugs for her travelling companion, Robert Lock, who denied any knowledge of the plot and was later acquitted. Lock was convicted last year of possessing heroin in his home city of Cambridge.

The Gregorys contrast their daughter's treatment with the Government's intervention on behalf of other British women incarcerated overseas.

Patricia Cahill, Karyn Smith, Samantha Slater, Karen Henderson, Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry have all been released early after help from ministers. And Patricia Hussain, whose plea for a pardon was supported by HM Customs after she gave evidence against leaders of her drugs gang in 1997, had her 25-year sentence cut to 10 years, making her eligible for parole.

But there has been no reprieve for Gregory. Last month she was moved from Durham prison to Cookham Wood, in Kent, 600 miles and two days' drive from her parents' home in Aberdeenshire.

She was transferred from jail in Thailand over two years ago under an International Prisoner Transfer Agreement, but her sentence remained the same.

Doreen Gregory said that seven years of prison had made their mark on her daughter.

"She certainly looks her age, her face is very thin. She has lost a lot of weight," she said.

Gregory's amnesty appeal to the King of Thailand was made two and a half years ago and she has been told to expect a response by the end of this month. Her father said: "The British government just wants to be seen to be tough against drug offenders and she is being held up as an example. Buthaven't they already been seen to be tough?"

BRITONS WHO WERE HELPED

Karyn Smith and Patricia Cahill

Birmingham teenagers caught with 66lbs of heroin at Bangkok airport in 1990. Released by royal pardon in 1993 after support from British government.

Samantha Slater

Model, aged 23, arrested in India in possession of cannabis and sentenced to 10 years. Freed two years later after Britain helped persuade Indian authorities to grant a pardon.

Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry

Convicted of the murder of a fellow nurse, Yvonne Gilford, in Saudi Arabia. They were released after 17 months following support from British government.

Karen Henderson Arrested at Moscow airport in 1996, when she was aged 18, accused of having pounds 500,000 of cocaine in her suitcase. The Russian authorities released her after two years following an intervention by Tony Blair.

Patricia Hussain

Arrested in Thailand in 1993 and originally sentenced to death for carrying pounds 2m of heroin in her suitcase. Sentence was reduced to 10 years after HM Customs backed her plea for a pardon because she testified against other drug traffickers.

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