Freedom hope for Billy Burton

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HARROGATE campaigner Guy Tweedy is confident the fight to free ex-Wetherby resident and fellow Thalidomide sufferer Billy Burton can be won after a significant breakthrough in the Philippines.

Billy faces dying in prison after his sentence for smuggling cannabis out of the country was increased to 40 years for political reasons.

The Harrogate Advertiser understands his clemency case is finally under review with the Board of Pardons five months after securing Government backing by the Foreign Office.

“It’s great news and things seem to be moving in the right direction,” said Mr Tweedy, a fellow Thalidomide sufferer who fought and won a ten year campaign to extend victims’ payouts from the drug’s former German manufacturer, Chemie-Grünenthal.

“His supporters think it’s about time he was released. He’s been in jail now since 1992 and struggled with his physical condition all his life. We are not condoning what he did but now he has served his sentence and should be brought home where he can be looked after properly.”

Meanwhile Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke has thrown his weight behind the campaign to free Billy.

He has put pressure on the British Embassy in Manila to “pull their finger out,” in a bid to speed up the clemency process.

“We have the support of the Government which is massive,” he said.

Mr Shelbrooke said he is in the process of organising a meeting with Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne.

“To get Jeremy Browne to write a letter like he did doesn’t happen very often. It’s now down to the British Embassy over there to pull their finger out, that’s what is slowing everything up at the moment,” he added.

If unproductive he opened up the possibility of raising his situation in Parliament at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

“It’s something I am keeping in reserve,” he added.

“I will raise it if I think it will help his cause but at this moment in time we are working behind the scenes. That has seemed to have worked so far.”

Meanwhile Billy’s cousin Angela Morris said family members are worried about his health, which has deteriorated in recent weeks.

He has undergone cardio-pulmonrary and blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, ECG and an RI scan for severe bone and joint pains in an external hospital which resulted in the surgical team operating on him.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear about his suffering,” she said.

“We can only hope there is an end soon.”

For more information on the campaign to free Billy Burton visit wetherbynews.co.uk or email wetherby.news@ypn.co.uk