THE fight to free Billy Burton has been given a significant boost after the Foreign Office announced they will back the campaign to release him.
In a document sent to the Wetherby News this week Consular Directorate Andrew Gaskell confirmed Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne has agreed to write to the Philippine President supporting Billy’s pardon application.
The letter will be signed off by Mr Browne in the next few days.
Campaigner Guy Tweedy praised the positive news:
“It’s wonderful, ” he said.
“About this time last year the Director of the Thalidomide trust went to see Billy in prison and the main push to release him started. Since then it’s been a ten month battle to get to this stage.
“We couldn’t have got there without the help of a number of people. I’d especially like to thank the Wetherby News and its readers for their help too.”
Former Wetherby resident Billy applied for clemency before Christmas.
But his fight for freedom hit a stumbling block when revealed it needed the backing of the Foreign Office to be successful.
“Now we’ve got this support we can push on, ” continued Mr Tweedy.
“There is still a long way to go with this, I’m not saying it is all over yet, we need to keep the pressure up right until the very end.
“But the news we’ve received this week is very positive and I can’t thank the Foreign Office enough. It is looking extremely positive.”
In 1992, aged 29, Billy got into extreme financial difficulty and tried to smuggle 12lbs of cannabis out of the Philippines.
He was arrested at Manila airport and subsequently given a life term of 30 years.
Initially he was informed that he could expect to serve eight years before being considered for parole; however before he reached eligibility to apply, the Filipino government enforced an embargo on parole for all drug offenders, even if sentencing had taken place prior to the ruling.