Glasgow & West Scotland

Thai drug smuggler Julian Gilbey in appeal parole blow

Julian Gilbey
Image caption Gilbey was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in Scotland

A British man convicted of smuggling drugs in Thailand could end up spending longer in prison despite winning an appeal to cut his minimum jail term.

Julian Gilbey was returned to Scotland in 2010 to serve the balance of a life sentence and was told he must serve at least 10 years, back-dated to 2001.

He has successfully appealed to have this punishment part cut to five years.

But judges said this should start from his return to the UK. This effectively rules out a parole bid later this year.

Gilbey, who is a former English language teacher from Sussex, was convicted of smuggling 4kg of heroin after being arrested at Bangkok's Don Muang in October 2001.

Death penalty

A Dutch citizen and his girlfriend, a Thai woman, and two men from Nepal were also detained.

In September 2002, Gilbey was sentenced to death - but the Thai judge immediately commuted this to a life sentence on account of an earlier confession.

The 42-year-old was transferred to Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow in March last year to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

He was taken to Scotland on humanitarian grounds as all of his remaining family live in Rothesay, Isle of Bute.

The move was made possible under international arrangements such as the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 and a related agreement between the United Kingdom and Thailand in 1990.

Under Scots law, however, Gilbey had to be told the minimum term or punishment part of his sentence that he must serve before he could apply for parole.

Lord Emslie had to rule, for the first time in a Scottish court, whether the punishment part should be fixed along ordinary domestic lines or relate to the Thai life sentence.

The judge ruled last year that it should be considered in the context of the Thai sentence rather than as if the original offence, conviction and life sentence had all originated in Scotland.

Parole delayed

Lord Emslie set a punishment part of 10 years, which applied from the original date of imprisonment in 2001, meaning Gilbey would be able to apply for parole from October 2011.

Gilbey challenged the period set and judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh have now ruled that the minimum term be fixed at five years.

They also ruled that his sentence was held to run from the date he was delivered to the Scottish prison in February last year following his repatriation.

This means his first possible release is now almost four years away.

Lord Reed said that the warrant under which Gilbey was brought back to Scotland contained "no provision enabling the period served in Thailand to be taken into account".

The judge said: "Counsel were unable to suggest any possible reason for this omission, other than oversight on the part of the Scottish ministers."

Lord Reed, who heard the appeal with Lord Hardie and Lord Wheatley, said: "If the warrant requires to be varied, or revoked and a new warrant issued, that is a matter falling outside the scope of the present appeal."

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