Foreign Office defends Thai drug prosecution: Customs satisfied with evidence, Commons told

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BOTH Customs and Excise and the Foreign Office last night defended - in a Commons reply that defied evidence presented to a Bangkok court three years ago - the Thai prosecution and conviction of Karyn Smith and Patricia Cahill on heroin smuggling charges.

The Independent reported yesterday that the Government Chemist had told the Foreign Office that if the alleged heroin consignment was in powder form - as stated at the Bangkok trial - it could not have fitted into the British girls' luggage. This could have been done only if the drug was compressed into slabs.

Last night Mark Lennox- Boyd, a Foreign Office minister, said both Customs and his own department were satisfied that the girls were carrying the amount of heroin in the charge. But his reply to a question from Ann Clwyd, the Labour frontbencher, assumed the drugs had been compressed, in contradiction to evidence presented in court. Customs and Excise were 'satisfied that the compressed heroin could have fitted into the luggage,' he said.

Stephen Jakobi, the Smith family lawyer, said later that for the Government to speak of 'the' compressed heroin was ridiculous, extraordinary and astonishing. No evidence had been given to the court about compressed heroin, he said. The December 1990 court judgment referred specifically and more than once to 'bags of white powder'.

Mr Jakobi said: 'HM Customs appear to be corroborating perjured evidence on which two innocent young women were convicted.

'They have a permanent presence in Bangkok, and they are repeating what they are told by Thai customs.'