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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

British drug smuggler pardoned from life sentence in Philippines after 20 years in jail


12:32 |

 

A BRITISH thalidomide victim jailed for drug ­smuggling 20 years ago has been pardoned by the president of the ­Philippines. Billy Burton, born with shortened arms and twisted hands, got a life sentence after trying to take 12lb of cannabis out of the country. Benigno Aquino III’s decision came after a campaign for release on the grounds of Mr Burton’s poor health. Advertisement >> The 48-year-old, of Rufforth, North Yorks, will now return home and pay a £294 fine. He will never be allowed to return to the Philippines. Campaign leader Guy Tweedy said: "I've been campaigning for 20-odd months now. While we don't condone what he did, he's deteriorated as a Thalidomider and we had to get him out." Freddie Astbury, the president of Thalidomide UK, also welcomed the news. He said: "We were very concerned about his health because his health had deteriorated rapidly since being in prison. "Obviously, nobody supports why he was there but, at the end of the day, his health's deteriorated and he needs to be in a safe environment now and get all the help that he needs." Mr Astbury added: "The main thing is, get him back, get him treated and get him the health he deserves and as quickly as possible." Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: "Thousands of people have spent this Christmas in jails all over the world, far from home. We are delighted that the Philippine government has shown compassion for Billy and that, for him, this ordeal is finally over." Mr Burton’s cousin, Angela Morris, said it was “the best present you could ask for”


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