Thalidomide Briton's release hailed
Campaigners welcomed the news that a Thalidomide victim who was jailed for drug offences in the Philippines nearly 20 years ago has been pardoned from his life sentence.
William Burton, known as Billy, was jailed for 30 years in 1992 after being caught trying to smuggle 12lb of cannabis out of the country.
He has now received a pardon from the Philippine President Benigno Aquino III after campaigns were set up in the UK to secure his release on the grounds of his deteriorating health.
Mr Burton, 48, from Rufforth, North Yorkshire, has been released on the condition that he returns home, never returns to the Philippines and pays a 20,000 peso (£294) fine.
Commenting on Mr Burton's release, Guy Tweedy, who set up the campaign group Free Billy Burton, said it was good news.
Mr Tweedy said: "I've been campaigning for 20-odd months now. While we don't condone what he did, he's deteriorated as a Thalidomider and we had to get him out."
Freddie Astbury, the president of Thalidomide UK, also welcomed the news. He said: "We were very concerned about his health because his health had deteriorated rapidly since being in prison.
"Obviously, nobody supports why he was there but, at the end of the day, his health's deteriorated and he needs to be in a safe environment now and get all the help that he needs."
Mr Astbury added: "The main thing is, get him back, get him treated and get him the health he deserves and as quickly as possible."
Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: "Thousands of people have spent this Christmas in jails all over the world, far from home. We are delighted that the Philippine government has shown compassion for Billy and that, for him, this ordeal is finally over."