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William ‘Billy’ Burton - Philippines

Had this offence occurred in this country, [Billy] would have been freed after five years. [He] has deteriorated more rapidly than would have been the case had he not been disabled. - Guy Tweedy, Thalidomide Trust

Update: Fair Trials International is delighted to announce that William Burton was pardoned by the Philippines on December 26, 2011. He returned home to the UK in April 2012.

William “Billy” Burton, a 49 year old British national with serious health problems, had spent 18 years in a maximum security prison in Manila after he was arrested while in possession of 12 pounds of cannabis. He was initially given a 30 year sentence in 1992 with the possibility of parole after 8 years.

However, due to changes in the drug laws of the Philippines, his sentence was increased to 40 years. A further change in the law retroactively applied to Billy also means that he was been deprived of the possibility of parole. His release date was 2032, by which time Billy will be seventy years old.

Billy suffers from a number of birth defects as a result of his mother having taken the drug Thalidomide during her pregnancy. His incarceration in a maximum security prison with overcrowding and poor conditions had caused his health to deteriorate more rapidly than it would have had otherwise. He is in serious need of medical care only available outside of prison.

A clemency petition for Billy had won initial approval from the Parole and Pardons Board in the Philippines, President Beningo S. Aquino granted the pardon on Boxing Day 2011.

Last updated: 12 June 2013

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