Laura Plummer – Should Ignorance Be A Defence?

Or should the onus be on the individual to learn about the law of the land?

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Laura Plummer received a 3-year prison sentence for smuggling almost 300 Tramadol tablets into Egypt. Is the sentence too harsh, correct or too lenient?

This blog post won’t make me many friends but then I don’t write posts to make friends, I write them to convey my honest opinion on a subject.

It seems to me that since New Labour got into power in 1997 that our society has been edging further and further towards a blame culture. It is usually about the individual blaming someone other than themselves for things that have gone wrong.

That they didn’t do well at school because the teachers were not very good, that they don’t have a job because nobody will help them get one or that nobody told them what the law was in the country they’ve just been nicked in.

One such case appears to be that involving Laura Plummer, the so-called Tramadol Tourist.

Here’s What We Know So Far

  • Laura Plummer, 33, from Hull, was arrested at Hurghada international airport in Egypt on suspicion of trafficking drugs after 290 Tramadol tablets were found in her suitcase on October 9th, 2017.
  • The shop worker claimed she was transporting the pills for her Egyptian husband Omar Caboo, who she met 18 months earlier at the Red Sea holiday resort in Hurghada where he works.
  • She said she was unaware the tablets, which are legal prescription-only painkillers in the UK, were banned in Egypt – because addicts use it as a heroin substitute.
  • Laura was due to stand trial on Christmas Day but it was adjourned after a mix-up by her interpreter saw her accidentally plead guilty.
  • She stood trial on Boxing Day with a new interpreter but was jailed for three years and transferred to the notorious Qena prison in Egypt.

Injustice?

Laura’s family have described the shop worker as “naive” after she escaped the death penalty and was given a 3-year sentence and fined £4,205 by the judge for smuggling 290 Tramadol tablets into Egypt.

Laura told her mum Roberta Sync­lair after the verdict: “I thought I was going to be freed, I thought this was the end. Everyone was saying how strong my case was and that it was only a matter of time. How can this be happening? I can’t do three years here, I’m so frightened, I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Well, she will be freed and it will only be a matter of time. In both cases, the answer is three years!

Laura’s sister Jayne added: “Mum said they threw her in a cage in the courtroom like a dog.”

Or, to put it another way, they put her into the pen reserved for the accused!

Lawyer Mr Osman said: “This is a decent woman who has made a terrible mistake. She shouldn’t be incarcerated in any prison, never mind an Egyptian prison.”

Oi mate, have you heard of the equality law? Makes no difference if she is a man, a woman or someone who isn’t quite sure! It also makes no difference if she is Mother Theresa or the scum of the earth. If you are found guilty you are going to eat porridge!

I find it amusing that the family consider it offensive that Laura was put in a cage in the courtroom. This is common in many courts around the world and is as much for their protection as it is for the court staff. What do they expect, to be treated like the little princess they think she is?

She was a suspected drug smuggler, now convicted, and she could have been worse for all the court knows.

Where Is The Injustice?

Since when has ignorance or naivety been grounds for a successful defence? Do these people even stop to think how many foreign tourists come into the UK every day? Should they allowed to commit crimes and be let off if they don’t know the law?

Should they only be let off if they are thoroughly nice people? Different rules for different people? I thought the whole point of the law was that it doesn’t discriminate someone against their class, sexuality, race and religion. Apparently, character traits are a different matter.

Different Laws For Different Countries

Take, for example, the age of consent. In Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Serbia (plus a few other countries in the EU) it is 14. Is it ok for a man (or woman) to travel to the UK and have sex with a 14-year old then claim he (or she) had no idea it was illegal in the UK?

What if he had fantastic character references like Laura Plummer does? That it was an honest mistake, guv?

You probably think underage sex (AKA paedophilia) is different to drug smuggling? Okay, what about drink driving?

The UK and Malta have the highest legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol at 0.8 grammes per litre. In most other countries it is 0.5 but here in Sweden, it is 0.2, or zero. Should people be let off if they don’t know the drink-drive limit and take to the road after a pint of beer?

Another example is that it is perfectly legal to drive and operate a mobile phone in Sweden. Literally holding the phone and reading or replying to a text message while on the motorway. I guess all Swedes should be let off if they are caught on the phone while driving on the M25?

I could go on giving you examples but the point is, whose responsibility is it to learn the law of a country you are visiting? Is it mine as a traveller, the country of origin or the destination country?

I Moved To Sweden

When I moved to Sweden the first thing I did was try to find out what laws were different to UK law. I knew there would be some and it was a tough time trying to find them out. I’ve grown up knowing if I do something wrong it is my fault not someone else’s for not telling me it is wrong.

The Swedish police used to routinely wait for the overnight boat from England to dock at Gothenburg. Why? Because they knew a lot of Brits would be disembarking the ferry in their car while under the influence of alcohol.

The ferry journey took 22-odd hours and would doc at about 09.00. Brits would sit up drinking into the early hours on the beer before retiring to their rooms to have a few hours kip. They wouldn’t realise how long it takes for the alcohol to leave their system. They’d wake, feel okay then drive off the boat not thinking they are still over the drink drive limit.

I know a lot about this because as a train driver we had the same drink drive limit as Sweden, practically zero. We received training as to how long it takes a pint of beer to leave the body.

In addition to the alcohol limit, between December 1st and March 30th, it is compulsory to have winter tyres on all cars. So, when the boat docked many people would have to leave their cars at the port because they were not road legal. Who should have informed them of this?

Information: A winter tyre has a special tread pattern to handle snow and is made of a soft compound, like racing tyres. You may have winter tyres on a car all year round unless they are the type with small metal studs (which are better in ice) because they rip the roads up in warmer weather.

A winter tyre is the difference between how the UK comes to a halt after 1cm of snow and being able to drive at 70mph on motorway covered in 5cm of snow.

Horses for Courses

These examples are different to the case in point but the principle is exactly the same. Different countries have different laws and it is up to us to find them out. I can’t say that a friend told me it was okay to do this or that and expect leniency.

This is the real world, everyone. I couldn’t get away with being naughty and using ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘Bob told me it was okay’ when I was 10 so why should adults get away with serious crimes these days?

This is not a special case just because it happened in Egypt. I am prescribed Tramadol for a back problem and I know full well that I need to take proof that I require them with me when I travel from Sweden to the UK. It was one of the first things I did after I started taking them!

Believe me, I am not a genius. But it is fucking obvious!

She Lied To The Check-In Staff

Though this is the least of her problems, Laura Plummer must have lied to the check-in staff upon checking-in at the airport.

When checking-in they always ask if we have packed the bags ourselves, she probably did, and if we are carrying anything for someone else. She was, Tramadol tablets for her husband.

Why did Laura not say something? For the same reason none of us do, we either think we know it is okay or we are worried that we’ll have to unpack whatever it is we are carrying and leave them behind.

Nice People Shouldn’t Go To Prison?

Laura Plummer’s mother was on TV on Christmas Day saying her daughter was a nice girl just trying to do a nice thing for someone. She asked: “Why should nice people go to prison for doing a nice thing?”

Well boo-fucking-hoo!

Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the girl if she has made a genuine mistake. She will no doubt learn a lesson.

However, I don’t think she should escape punishment of some kind and I don’t think a 3 year sentence for smuggling Tramadol is tough. I think she’s got off fairly lightly.

Nice people go to prison all the time because nice people do stupid things and break the law. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s life! But to say someone should be released because they are a nice person, a little naive and the prison is too tough is a pathetic excuse.

As the great Ronnie Barker who played Norman Stanley Fletcher used to say, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. That includes ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law.

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