Colombian judge suspends Cassie Sainsbury's plea deal hearing

SBS World News Radio: Adelaide woman Cassie Sainsbury's plea-bargain with prosecutors hangs in the balance, after a Colombian judge suspended a crucial court hearing.

Colombian judge suspends Cassie Sainsbury's plea deal hearing

Cassie Sainsbury at a court hearing in late July 2017. Source: AAP

Ms Sainsbury made a new admission, telling the court she only agreed to smuggle drugs because her family and partner had been threatened.

Cassie Sainsbury's sentencing has been pushed back after a last-minute admission in court threatened a plea deal reached with prosecutors.

The 22 year-old was arrested at Bogota's international airport in April, trying to smuggle 5.8 kilograms of cocaine inside 18 separate packages of headphones.

Her lawyers had agreed with prosecutors to a sentence of six years, instead of 20, if the South Australian accepted responsibility for the trafficking and agreed to give information on others in the group involved.

But Ms Sainsbury then told the court she only carried the drugs because someone threatened to kill her family and her fiance if she didn't.

"What would have happened if you didn't take that with you?"

Sainsbury: "I was told that my family and partner would be killed."

The issue of coercion hadn't previously been raised in court, prompting Judge Sergio Leon to raise concerns that it complicated the development of the plea bargain.

The prosecution questioned why Ms Sainsbury hadn't made the assertion when she was arrested, and Judge Leon suspended the hearing.

"If this plea bargain could be legal or not. That's why it is wise to suspend this hearing, do the pertinent study and to resolve if it's going to be legal or not what is being proposed. For that we are going to set a new date."

Ms Sainsbury's lawyer says he believes her story and she is young, good person.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the case serves as another warning to Australians travelling overseas.

Mr Dutton says the government has provided consular assistance to Ms Sainsbury but hasn't funded her legal case.

"Obviously, like any Australian in trouble overseas, there will be consular assistance. Ultimately though the warning needs to go out as we've seen in Bali, and as we're seeing now: people need to abide by the laws of that country and if not they face serious consequences."

Ms Sainsbury has been detained in El Buen Pastor women's prison since her arrest.

The next hearing will reportedly be held in August.


2 min read
Published 27 July 2017 at 3:00pm
Source: SBS