Page last updated at 03:04 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 04:04 UK

More women used as drug mules

By Catherine Marston
UK Specialist Correspondent

Drug dealer in Jamaica
Yardie dealer in Jamaica

Multi-million pound campaigns to fight drug trafficking are having little impact in keeping them off the streets, according to a new report from the UK Drug Policy Commission.

It says even big seizures and convictions of major dealers have done little to restrict their availability.

Meanwhile, many of those snared by anti-drug operations are small-time dealers and smugglers - like "Judith", now serving six years for carrying drugs into the UK from Jamaica in 2001.

Police say most smugglers caught bringing drugs into the UK's ports are women. As "expendable" couriers, they have low status and are more likely to carry higher risk drugs, like cocaine.

For Judith, the perfect Jamaican holiday “turned into the worse nightmare of my life” when a man she met on the island forced her to smuggle cocaine.

Knife threat

One evening after visiting relatives and enjoying time with her small son she began talking to a local man in a bar. The pair got on well and headed back to Judith's hotel for a drink on the terrace.

But once there, says Judith, the man suddenly became aggressive, and told her that she had to carry drugs back to the UK for him, or face serious consequences.

She said: “He threatened me and my son with the knife, and said if I didn't co-operate with him he would hurt me and my son.

“This person was a normal person to me, but he turned into a monster. I tried to block it out of my mind."

Judith says that the man forced her to tell him her home address, contact details of her relatives and other personal information. He told her he would find her if she did not carry out his demands.

I was always looking over my shoulder wondering who is watching me, even in the supermarket. I was trying to convince myself this is not happening

“What scared me the most, what petrified me, was the knife,” she said.

Judith still had several days of her holiday left and tried to behave normally around her son and family.

She said she was too terrified to say anything to anyone, and just wished the whole situation was not happening. She says she was in denial and very scared.

“I was always uneasy. If I was with relatives I was always looking over my shoulder wondering who was watching me, even in the supermarket.

"I was trying to convince myself this is not happening, I was hoping this person would not appear but the night before I left, he did turn up."

Blind panic

The man arrived at Judith's hotel and repeated his threats. He brought a bag with him.

“Inside the bag was men's toiletries, talcum powder,” Judith explained, and that's where the drugs were.

"He didn't let me touch them, he just put them in my suitcase. He made me feel very intimidated and very scared."

Judith says at this point she felt isolated and in a blind panic. She convinced herself if she could just get back to the UK, the nightmare would be over. She told no-one and, terrified, boarded the flight back to Gatwick, with the cocaine in her suitcase.

cocaine packets
Judith flew to London with cocaine in her suitcase

She said that, at the time, she was just focusing on getting home and as far away from the man as possible.

She admitted she did not think of the consequences, or the seriousness of what she was doing.

At Gatwick, Judith was arrested after officers found the Class A drug in her suitcase. She still told no-one about the threats, her case went to court, and she pleaded guilty to drug trafficking. She was sentenced to six years in prison.

“It was very hard not being able to be with my son, to take him to school and do the things parents do with their children.

”It was very, very, very hard. But you do learn to cope, I was counting the days left to go home."

Learning lessons

Looking back, Judith knows her actions were reckless and foolish. She blames her youth, naivety and terror. But she paid the price for committing a serious offence.

“It did deprive me of my freedom and while I was in prison it did make me very, very angry knowing that I could have seeked help and said 'no' and stood up to this person."

More and more women are taking the same risks as Judith, and she wants to warn them of the dangers.

“My advice is to say no, to speak to other people, to shout and scream and get their attention, say no."

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