Letter: Evidence in teenagers' drug case

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Independent of 17 and 18 June contained several articles on Patricia Cahill and Karyn Smith, both serving long prison sentences in Thailand for drug offences.

The Foreign Office position on the case is clear: our objective is to help bring about the early release of both girls, for humanitarian reasons. Because the girls were very young (17 and 18) at the time of their arrest we have strongly supported their petition for a Royal pardon. The decision on the petition is a matter for His Majesty the King of Thailand.

Whether or not the allegations made in your articles can be substantiated is another matter. But their collective impact on the climate in which the girls' appeal is being considered by the Thai authorities cannot be helpful.

The defence lawyers of both girls had the opportunity at the time of the trial to challenge the evidence. They did not. The Foreign Office did not advise Karyn Smith not to appeal against her sentence. Her lawyer lodged an appeal on her behalf, but it was subsequently withdrawn to allow her to apply for a Royal pardon. I would like to make the following points.

The letter referred to in your article from the Laboratory of the Government Chemist was given by the Foreign Office to the Smith family solicitor, at his request, and for the sake of completeness. It would not have been right for us to conceal from the solicitor any information which related to his client's daughter. But the letter contains only general information about the characteristics of heroin. Because the Government Chemist has not seen first-hand evidence relating to this particular case, he cannot make a definitive judgement. The letter from his laboratory emphasised this point.

It would therefore be wrong, and unfair to the girls and their families, to imply that the Government Chemist's letter contains information which could help bring about their early return to the UK.

HM Customs & Excise, who have considerable expertise in this area, have also reviewed the documentation provided by the Smith family solicitor, the Government Chemist's letter and photographs of the drugs and the suitcases concerned. They are satisfied that the compressed heroin could have fitted into the luggage.

The key point is how best to bring about the early release of Karyn Smith and Patricia Cahill. In this context, publication of uncorroborated allegations is not helpful.

Yours faithfully,

MARK LENNOX-BOYD

Under-Secretary of State

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

London, SW1

18 June

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