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No such thing as a typical drugs mule
Dr Jennifer Fleetwood, a University of Kent expert in drug mules and the drug trade, has described 55 year old British woman Lindsay Sandiford's suitcase full of cocaine as one that would not have been a surprise to Indonesian customs.
In fact,' she said, 'there is no such thing as a typical drugs mule. Nowadays, traffickers are more likely to employ pensioners, teenagers and western tourists in the hope of evading detection. Lindsay Sandiford is one such drugs mule, involved precisely because she bucks the stereotype.
Initial reports claimed that Lindsay Sandiford became involved because her children were threatened. Although this claim is unlikely to stand up in court, her experience is not unusual. A significant minority of drug mules are coerced or threatened into the risky business carrying drugs across borders. Furthermore, few drug mules know where they are travelling to or what they will carry until the last minute. By then it is impossible to back out.
According to Prisoners Abroad around 1,000 Brits are imprisoned overseas, mainly for drugs offences. Unfortunately for Lindsay Sandiford and her co-offenders, Indonesia is one of 32 countries worldwide which prescribes the death penalty for drugs offences. Researchers and campaigners worldwide agree that drug mules are minor players: most earn pitiful sums of money for taking the risk for others. Executing her would be, quite literally, shooting the messenger.'
Dr Jennifer Fleetwood is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. She has done extensive research on drug mules.
Her paper 'Five kilos: penalties and practice in the international cocaine trade' was published in the British Journal of Criminology 51:375–393.
Story published at 3:18pm 29 May 2012
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