Unlikely pair of big-time smugglers: Hopes rest on King of Thailand's power of pardon

THE KING of Thailand holds the key to hopes for Karyn Smith's release from a Thai prison, writes David Connett.

A royal pardon on humanitarian grounds was sought in February last year but it is unheard of for pardons to be granted before three years of a sentence is served. Smith will have served three years next month and her family are hoping she may be released soon afterwards.

The pardon application was delayed for nine months after Smith was sentenced to 25 years for drug smuggling. Her Thai legal advisers told her to appeal against sentence despite advice from the British consul not to and instead to concentrate on the pardon.

Differences of opinion between her British and Thai legal advisers followed, resulting in Smith being forced to withdraw the appeal application herself in 1991.

A dossier on the case, prepared by Stephen Jakobi, her English legal adviser, said: 'It was characteristic of her lawyers' expertise that the girl found herself in court without any lawyer doing her own formal withdrawal due to their lack of knowledge of elementary criminal procedure, and nine months had been wasted for the purpose of a formal pardon application.'

Her Thai legal advisers were later dismissed after the royal pardon application had been submitted.

If the application fails, Smith and her legal advisers face enormous practical problems in bringing an appeal. They are still waiting for an official transcript of the trial, more than two years after it ended.

Defendants in court cases are entitled to transcripts under international law, but Thailand is not a signatory to the 1961 Vienna Convent ion which lays down this rule. The Foreign Office requested a transcript copy in February 1992 but has still to receive it.

Another uncertainty is the time that an appeal would take to come to court.