In prison abroad and in need of help : LETTERS

From Mr Stephen Jakobi Sir: Roger Matthews' study of consular services, reported in Heather Mills's article "Britons' plight in foreign jails" (12 December), directs public attention to Britain's forgotten people. There has been a population explosion inthe number of Britons in prison overseas over the last few years. On 31 December 1990 there were 582 - there are now over 2,000. Most of them are in Europe, the field of Dr Matthew's study. The tragedy is that consular resources have not been provided to match the increased humanitarian need.

As the report pointed out, our citizens awaiting trial overseas face a multitude of disciminatory problems in defending themselves. They face disadvantages in relation to legal representation, interpretation and bail. If any defence evidence is needed from UK, the chances are it will not be forthcoming.

In November, we launched an international campaign for justice for Union citizens. Our aim is to place the harmonisation of justice problems high on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference to revise Maastricht in 1996.

If there had been action on the problems of bail in Europe before now, perhaps as many as a quarter of those who are in prison overseas would be spending Christmas at home.

Yours faithfully, STEPHEN JAKOBI Fair Trials International Richmond, Surrey 12 December