Drug Mule's Father In Video Warning
27 November 2014, 06:12
The father of convicted drug smuggler Melissa Reid has spoken of the devastating effect her crime has had on his family, in a new video warning of the consequences of drug crime abroad.
In the 2013-2014 year, 717 British nationals were arrested abroad for drug-related offences, the Foreign Office said, as it launched its "Mules are fools, Don't be an ass'' campaign.
The number of arrests rose last year with significant increases in Spain, Turkey and Australia.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and charity Prisoners Abroad said they are tackling the issue by "highlighting the consequences of the use, possession and smuggling of drugs in countries around the world''.
Billy Reid's daughter Melissa was jailed for just under seven years after admitting trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from Peru to Spain.
Melissa, from Glasgow, was caught alongside Michaella McCollum from Tyrone last year at Lima airport with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage.
They were working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza when they claimed Colombian drug lords who kidnapped them at gunpoint forced them to board a flight with the drugs, but they later admitted their crime and struck a behind-closed-doors plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence.
Mr Reid said his daughter's imprisonment has been tough for the whole family.
"It's had a tremendous impact on us both emotionally and financially,'' he said.
"It's horrendous to see your daughter in handcuffs and the living conditions that she has to put up with. Melissa has spent her own 20th and 21st birthdays in prison in Peru.
"She missed the significant event of her only brother's wedding. Events such as Christmas are non-existent for us. There'll be no celebrations in our house, there'll be no Christmas tree until we get her back home.''
Shaun Attwood, who also features in the three-minute video, ended up in the prison with the highest death rate in America after being sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in Phoenix, Arizona for distributing ecstasy.
He said: "I thought drugs were glamorous, I'd never get caught, my parents would never find out.''
Speaking of his experience in jail he said: "Everything you take for granted in your everyday life is out the window.
"I had to get used to the sounds of heads getting bashed against toilets, bodies getting carried out on stretchers, people who looked like they were dead.''
Sylvia Riley, whose daughter Zoe Watson is in jail in America for trafficking cocaine said the families of those who get involved in drug crime "do the sentence with them''.
James Duddridge, minister for consular affairs, said: When it comes to drugs our message is clear - don't take risks, it is never worth it. You only have one life so don't waste it.
"The consequences can be devastating for both you and your family and so it is important to be familiar with the local laws. Penalties and sentences vary considerably around the world and the FCO cannot interfere in another country's legal system. So stay safe and do not break the law.''
Pauline Crowe, chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, said: "We urge people to consider the severe consequences of overseas imprisonment; from unsanitary conditions that breed disease and infection, to a severe shortage of food, clean water and the most basic of medical care.
"Overseas laws can be far harsher than in the UK and committing a drugs crime, whether intentionally or not, could result in a lengthy sentence in life-threatening conditions.''