Can it Get Any Worse?
16th July 2009
"Within any important issue, there are always aspects no-one wishes to discuss"
I started this year with so much hope, it was going to be the best but it is quickly turning into the worst!
As I have told you; in March 2009 my four years were up, I had served the required time to be able to transfer to a prison in the UK. In April I signed my transfer papers and was told that I should be home (UK prison) within six months. Can you imagine how good that felt, I was made up. With Mum being ill this was the best news ever. On my Contact Visits with Mum, John and Seana it was all we spoke about ... being able to see each other with contact most weeks in just a few months time.
After signing my papers the next step is a meeting for the Thai Transfer Committee to agree and then wait for my escort home to be arranged. For a whole month I was as happy as can be ... a few more months and home!
On my next visit from the Embassy, 12th May, I was told that the Ministry of Justice (UK) had advised the Embassy in Bangkok not to present my papers to the next Thai Transfer Committee meeting as they were seeking legal advice! Legal advice for what I hear you say, this is the maddness part, I will pass on the six points as provided to the Embassy the night before they saw me:
1. The issue is the twenty six year Thai sentence/fourteen years maximum sentence in the UK for which the MoJ is seeking legal advice.
The problem is you can't be transferred to a UK prison with a sentence longer in term than English law allows. My case at the time of arrest was Class B drugs - fourteen years maximum in the UK. Myself and my family have been aware of this and have been trying to sort it out for nearly two years with no response, not a single reply after many e-mails and letters to various departments in England. We could see there maybe a problem coming up and wanted to try and sort it out before I became eligible for transfer. I've spoken many times over during the last year with the Embassy staff whilst on visits here in Bangkok - they must think I'm like a stuck record. After two years of trying my family and I are gutted.
2. MoJ is well aware that this may well affect the application being presented to the Thai Transfer Committee.
I've already missed two of these meetings which are staged every few months. The next one is at the end of this month, July. So the following one is maybe October/November, then I wait eight to twelve weeks for an escort ... I'm not going home this year!
3. The adaptation of sentence has not yet cleared with the Thai's.
In the High Court, London, in April of this year a case was heard regarding another Brit who had been jailed in Thailand and returned to the UK. It was argued that the sentence of thirty three years for the possession of twenty-four grams was disproportionate to the offence he committed and amounted to inhumane and degrading punishment. He lost. But what is important to me is that the MoJ claimed in a court of law that they had asked Thailand to adapt prisoner's sentences to which Thailand said NO!
Doesn't sound good for me does it?
4. The MoJ is genuinely concerned for the current situation - action as quickly as possible.
My family are on the phone weekly and are being passed from pillar to post, the only answers they can get as to what is happening is that legal advice is being taken. I'm not getting anywhere, today during an Embassy visit I was shown a folder an inch thick to show me how much paperwork is flying about. I asked for copies so that I could read for myself what is happening and was told NO! I need to apply via the Freedom of Information Act ... which I will do. But it shouldn't be like this, I'm not fighting anyone - I just want some answers to my questions about what is going to happen.
5. The MoJ is genuinely concerned for the current situation - action as quickly as possible.
I'm very concerned too about all of this because of lack of answers to myself and my family. It shouldn't be like this, I'm not trying to prove any point - just be allowed to go home to be nearer to my family and have more contact with them. I still have years to serve but going home will be a big step and a great improvement for visits with my family. A bed, a hot shower and three meals a day will be a bonus. It's frustrating that we have been trying to sort this out for the last two years with no reponse, we didn't want to be where we are today.
6. The MoJ have seen your Mother's letters and have written to your MP.
When Mum found out about her illness she contacted her local MP, Mr John Hayes, asking if he could help to make my transfer go as smoothly as possible under the circumstances. Mr Hayes has always answered her letters and been very helpful to her with this. In fact so helpful that two days before my four year mark she received a copy of a letter sent to him from another MP, dated 11th March 2009, stating that "Mr Jack Straw agreed to Mr Hurford's request for re patriation to the UK on 27th February" the approval was sent to Thailand ten days later, together with information from my Mum about her illness. "This information has been forwarded to the British Enbassy in Bangkok to ensure that this can bring the compassionate nature of the request to the Thai authorities" They had also been asked not to pass the information about my Mum's health to me at her request. "According to the British Embassy in Bangkok, the next proposed meeting of the Thai Transfer Committee is the end of March and the intention is to have Mr Hurford's file reviewed at this time"
My Mum was made up with this letter and thought things were progressing as stated ... then the news on 12th May about seeking legal advice! Mr Hayes has been a big help and support for my Mum and I hope he stays with it. Along with Mr Hanson MP and Mr Jack Straw MP he has done all that he could to get me transferred home.
I'm cheesed off that it has been allowed to get this far and that our hopes have been allowed to get so high before realising and taking legal advice on the fourteen year ruling!!
So that's where I am today, waiting for news on what the next move is, my family and I feel as though we are getting no-where ... just the words "seeking legal advice"
I really want to word all of this a lot stronger but it won't help either me or my family. I'm going to get hold of the paperwork and will update you again soon - I promise!
Thank you for your support and letters, e-mails, messages etc which have been most welcome just recently.
Copyright Scott Hurford 2009 - All Rights Reserved