No Royal Pardon for drug smuggler

Spalding man Scott Hurford has lost his bid for a pardon.
Spalding man Scott Hurford has lost his bid for a pardon.

A CONVICTED drug smuggler from Spalding serving a long prison term after being convicted in Thailand has lost his legal bid for a Royal Pardon.

Scott Hurford (36) committed a crime which would have merited two to four years in jail if convicted in the UK.

But, despite being repatriated to serve his sentence in British prison, he is now facing a huge term behind bars, as he was sentenced in a Thai court.

Hurford last year unsuccessfully applied to the Ministry of Justice for a Royal Pardon to cut the time he must serve.

And on Thursday a High Court judge upheld the Ministry’s decision.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said there was no reason to grant permission for a judicial review challenge of the decisions of the Ministry to reject his plea for mercy.

Hurford was convicted in 2005 of importing 240 methamphetamine tablets into Thailand from Cambodia and initially jailed for 30 years, although that was cut later to 26 years and eight months.

At the time of his sentencing, the maximum term for the offence in the UK was 14 years, although for his level of offending, the sentence would have been between two and four years.

He was returned to the UK in November 2009 and has ever since been serving his sentence at Wandsworth Prison, the High Court was told.

Hurford applied for a Royal Pardon in this country, urging the Ministry to show mercy and cut the amount of time he would have to serve in prison.

His lawyer argued that there was a case that the Ministry’s decision to reject the applications was wrong.

The Ministry was wrong, said barrister John Jones, to say that the Royal Prerogative – a special power to grant remission of a sentence – was not open to it.

The Prerogative, a historic power officially held by the Queen, could not be ousted by an international agreement, such as the Prisoner Transfer Agreement with the Thais, he said.

“We say there is a great public interest in this proceeding to a full hearing,” Mr Jones told the court. “There are a considerable number of prisoners repatriated to the UK and it is a growing phenomenon.”

Rejecting his arguments, the judge said: “It seems to me clear that what the Secretary of State was saying was that it was a settled policy not to act in a way that contravenes the terms of the agreement. I don’t think that there are grounds for arguing that the application of that policy can be reviewed.

“It is clear from what the Secretary of State said that, even if he had power to act without contravening the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, he would not.”

The judge said Hurford had already had the benefit of returning to the UK and allowed to serve his sentence under English administrative rules, which allow release on licence halfway through the sentence.