Page last updated at 20:27 GMT, Tuesday, 19 April 2005 21:27 UK

New hope for jailed British woman

Chantal McCorkle
Chantal McCorkle is serving a 24-year sentence for fraud in the US

A British woman serving 24 years in a US prison after being convicted of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering may have new hope of an early release.

Chantal McCorkle, 37, of Slough, Berkshire, was jailed in 1998 after a being found guilty by a Florida court.

The charges came after she and her husband made TV commercials using actors posing as satisfied customers to promote their property advice business.

Her sentence can now be reversed if an appeals court deems it "unreasonable".

'Luxury lifestyles'

McCorkle's lawyer, Mark Horwitz, who has an appeal pending, said: "The change of law means that she will be re-sentenced but it does not mean she will be released."

Her jailing caused outrage in the UK and was also branded "vastly excessive" by human rights campaigners.

The couple's business was investigated by the police after customers, who bought their tapes and courses on how to make money buying and selling repossessed property, complained.

Police then discovered they had hired a Florida mansion and private planes to "emulate a luxurious lifestyle" and used actors.

But human rights campaigners highlighted the fact that all the money was repaid.

Presidential pardon

A landmark US case in January, has now led to the US Supreme Court making formerly mandatory sentencing guidelines "advisory" rather than compulsory.

Judges are now expected to issue sentences based solely on evidence presented to the jury and the jury's conclusion.

A presidential pardon could also increase her chances of release if her case was transferred back to the UK.

Almost 130 MPs recently signed a House of Commons motion calling for McCorkle's immediate release.

Her stepfather, Len Forrester, said: "We have to be hopeful and can't be anything else.

"But judges don't like to admit they were wrong in the first place."



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