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Thailand: Drugs Case Britons Are Released From Thai Jail

Media Awareness ProjectPubdate: Thu, 24 Feb 2000

Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)

Thailand: Drugs Case Britons Are Released From Thai Jail

Author: Paul Baldwin

TWO British backpackers were released on bail from prison in Thailand last night three weeks after police allegedly discovered drugs in their room.Judith Payne, a 21-year-old dental nurse, and James Gilligan, 25 and unemployed, were arrested at gunpoint after drugs officers raided a guest house and allegedly uncovered opium and cannabis.

Gilligan, from Pontefract, West Yorks, is reported to have admitted possessing the drugs but Payne, from Castleford, also West Yorks, said she did not know they were there and only offered to share her room because Gilligan had nowhere to stay.

A British embassy official described the pair as “the luckiest people in the world” after lengthy legal negotiations secured their release on bail from the notorious “Bangkok Hilton” jail on sureties of UKP5,000 each.

Payne said she was delighted to have been released from the “hellish conditions” at the Women’s Correctional Institute.

Gilligan, released from the nearby Central Correctional Institute for Drug Addicts at the same time, was similarly relieved but both have been banned from leaving Thailand before their trial, which could be up to two years. If they are convicted on charges of possessing half a kilogram of cannabis end five grams of opium they face a maximum of six years.

In a statement to police Gilligan admitted possessing the drugs. Last night he said: “It was all my fault. I bought the drugs and took them to Judith’s room. I am very sorry for the trouble I have caused. I am willing to stay and face the music. I do not have any convictions and pray that they will give me a suspended sentence.”

Payne, whose guest house room was in Khaosarn Road – setting of the opening scene of the film The Beach – said she only met Gilligan on the day of her arrest. She said: “As soon as the drugs were found James put his hands up, he did the honourable thing. I’m relieved I don’t want to go through that hell again.”

Payne, who was on her first trip abroad, said her parents had been unaware of her arrest until days ago as they had been on holiday. Her mother Valerie, who stood the UKP5,000 bail, said last night: “We are relieved but it is early days. I have spoken to her and she seems alright.”

Describing the conditions in jail, Payne said: “I have been sleeping in a room with people squashed in like sardines, head to toe. I got to wash once a day, but was allowed only three scoops of a shallow bowl to pour over myself.”

MAP posted-by: Jo-D