Briton's life sentence on drugs charges quashed by Thai court

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The Independent Online

A British man who once faced the death penalty for drugs charges in Thailand has had his conviction overturned and will be home within days.

Jody Aggett, 30, of Swindon, Wiltshire, was sentenced to death after being arrested in 2001 and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2003. The British embassy in Bangkok told his family on Monday that he had been acquitted by the Thai Supreme Court, along with his Thai girlfriend.

Mr Aggett had gone to stay with Ramphia Lo, known in the family as Kristin, who he had met two years previously when they were both living in South Africa. In 2001 the pair had been living above a travel agent, unaware of a covert drugs operation operating on the floor above.

Ms Lo was pregnant with their first child and the couple were waiting for a visa application, when they were offered free accommodation by a friend. The only condition was that they kept an eye on the travel agent business below, managing security, letting in staff and locking up at night. But they had no idea there was another business in the same building.

Mr Aggett's parents said that the "friend" who offered their son the flat, a dual Canadian and Dutch citizen, was making ecstasy in the flat above. Police arrested all the tenants and after being forced to sign a "confession", which was never translated from Thai, Mr Aggett and Ms Lo were found guilty of plotting to manufacture ecstasy.

Ms Lo gave birth to their son Ryan behind bars a few weeks after her imprisonment. Now five, Ryan was collected from his mother's cell in Bangkok by Mr Aggett's parents, Tony and Lorna, a few months later. Ryan has only met his parents once since then, at a prison visit when he was just three. "He thinks of us as his parents now," said Tony Aggett. "He calls me dad, but I'm not sure he really understands".

While Jody's father is apprehensive about the reunion of his son and grandson, his main feeling is one of relief. "It's been so frustrating because we never knew when the appeal would go through," he said. "We've always lived in the hope we'd get this answer, but it's great to finally have it".

Catherine Wolthuizen, chief executive of Fair Trials Abroad, which has campaigned for Mr Aggett's release, said: "The family was informed by the consulate that he has been acquitted and all the charges against him have been dropped." The case against Mr Aggett was "flimsy in the extreme".

Mr Aggett is in a Bangkok detention centre awaiting a flight home. Ms Lo has been released and will be reunited with her son in the UK when she receives immigration papers.

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