The number of Britons arrested in Spain last year fell by over 13%1, according to the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office report British Behaviour Abroad.  Arrests for drug related offences in Spain also decreased by 4.5% over the past year.


The positive downward trends for Spain are in line with an encouraging global picture for the year to 31 March 2011. The number of Britons arrested overseas fell by over 10% worldwide, with drug arrests down by nearly 20%. These figures compare with a 2% drop in the number of overseas visits by Britons.


Despite the declines, Foreign Office staff still handled 5,700 arrest cases last year, of which 1745 were in Spain. Drug arrests continue to be a significant problem in some countries, with upward trends in South America and the Caribbean, but making up less than 10% of all arrests in Spain.


Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said: “We work hard to warn British nationals about the consequences of breaking the law abroad so it is really encouraging to see the overall number of cases of arrests and drug arrests falling.  But last year there were still 5700 arrests of British nationals overseas. People are mistaken if they think the Foreign Office can get you out of jail.  We can’t, but we will work hard to try and ensure your safety, and that you get a fair trial.”


Aside from arrests, the British Behaviour Abroad report shows that the number of Brits hospitalised in Spain increased 23% to 1024 cases, despite fewer people from the UK travelling abroad last year3.  Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive, so to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after an accident, the Foreign Office strongly urges holidaymakers to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Previous research suggests that 15% of Britons travel abroad uninsured4, and every year some end up facing bills running to many thousands of pounds.


New research launched today by the Foreign Office reveals that 43%2 of 18-24 year olds in Britain know someone who has taken illegal drugs whilst abroad. It shows that two thirds (69%) of people don’t always find out about the laws of the country they are visiting before they go abroad – putting themselves at risk of unknowingly breaking the law. 


More worryingly a third (32%) of people are unaware that they will always be prosecuted under local law if they break the law abroad - with 6%  thinking they will be prosecuted under UK law, 22% thinking it depends on the country they are in and 4% admitting to not knowing at all.


Other key findings from the British Behaviour Abroad report:

·         Spain had the highest number of Britons requiring assistance (4,971 cases), but when total visitor and resident numbers are compared with the number of cases, then Britons were most likely to need consular assistance in the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan.

·         The number of rape and sexual assault cases in Spain rose from 45 to 52. Victims of such crimes are encouraged to contact their local Consulate, so that assistance can be offered to them and their families.

·         Deaths in Spain that resulted in consular assistance fell by 8% from 1786 to 1639. Worldwide, 55% of such deaths were from natural causes.  

·         Spain last year had 12.3 million visitors (source: Spanish authorities) and an estimated 808,000 British residents (source: IPPR – based on Britons living in Spain for a year or longer). 


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