The Supreme Court on Tuesday reduced the prison sentences given a mushroom-picking couple from 15 years to five years each for involvement in illegal logging.
Udom Sirisorn, 54, and his wife Daeng, 51, of Non Sa-ard village in Kalasin’s Huai Mek district, arrived at the provincial court to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday morning. They said they would accept the judgement.
The court reduced the lower courts’ sentences to a total of five years in jail each.
Udom and Daeng were arrested on July 12, 2010 after they rode their motorcycle to Dong Ranang National Park to collect wild mushrooms. In the same area, authorities were moving in on a group of illegal loggers, who got away. Udom and Daeng also fled in fear upon learning of the raid, leaving behind their motorcycle.
Officials found the bike and traced it back to the couple, who were apprehended soon after on charges of illegal logging. Forestry officials accused them of felling about 700 trees over a 72-rai area of the protected forest.
On Sept 26, 2011, the provincial court sentenced them to 30 years in jail. The sentences were halved after they confessed. They were released on bail and appealed the ruling. They insisted they had not felled any trees, and had gone into the forest reserve solely to collect mushrooms.
The Appeal Court upheld their 15-year sentences.
The case grabbed media headlines after the couple sought justice from several agencies. The court was widely criticised for its judgement.
They had earlier said they confessed to the charges, even though they had done nothing wrong, after being advised by their lawyer and neighbours that doing so would mean the penalty would be reduced and they would not have to spend time in prison.
The couple have already spent about 20 months in prison.
In Bangkok, Justice Ministry spokesman Suebpong Sripongkul later told reporters the Supreme Court had sentenced them to four years in jail each for colluding in illegally cutting teak trees and six years each for collusion in having un-processed logs of protected trees in their possession.
The court then halved the prison terms, the spokesman said.
Public prosecutors charged the couple with illegal logging in Dong Ranang forest in tambon Khlong Kham of Yang Talat district.
The couple had felled some 700 teak and krayaloei trees, both protected species, in the forest area, according to the prosecution case.
The court was told they had 1,148 non-processed logs of teak and krayaloei trees with no official stamps in their possession, the ministry spokesman said.