Accused drug courier Cassandra Sainsbury sentenced to six years in jail

Accused drug smuggler Cassandra Sainsbury has been sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison under a plea deal approved by a Colombian judge, said her lawyer.

"Her sentence begins immediately and could be as low as three years, if she has behaved well," her lawyer, Orlando Herrán said after a closed session in Bogota, Colombia today.

In addition to her jail time, Ms Sainsbury was sentenced to a fine of 450 Colombian minimum wages (737,717 Colombian pesos, AU$315), for a total fine over $AU140,000.

It is unclear how long she would have to pay this fine or where the money would come from.

Cassandra Sainsbury is escorted by police to a court hearing in Bogota, Colombia. Photo: AP

Cassandra Sainsbury is escorted by police to a court hearing in Bogota, Colombia. Photo: AP

Mr Herrán said that it was most probable that she would serve her sentence in Colombia, with the sentence possibly being reduced if she continues to teach English in the prison and her record of good behaviour.

Cassandra Sainsbury has been in prison since she was detained in April 2017 at Bogota's El Dorado Airport, with 5.8 kilos of cocaine hidden in packets of headphones.

Under the Colombian penal code, the maximum penalty for any amount of cocaine over five kilos is 30 years in jail.

 In this latest plea deal, Ms Sainsbury's almost seven months in El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) women's prison will count towards her total sentence, according to her lawyer.  

He also said that her behaviour and conditions would be reviewed periodically by a judge to determine whether she would be eligible for early release or home detention.

For the moment, she is expected to stay in the relative safety and comfort of the cell block at Buen Pastor where other foreign women are located.

If she does end up receiving permission to have home arrest, she would need to remain in Colombia, supported by family or an organisation.

Mr Herrán was the only person to speak to reporters during and after the hearing, as the courtroom was sealed against media and neither the judge, nor the prosecutor, nor Ms Sainsbury's mother agreed to be interviewed.

Because of the closed session, it is unknown whether she was able to provide useful evidence to the judge about those who she said had threatened her.

Accused drug smuggler Cassandra Sainsbury has been sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison under a plea deal approved by a Colombian judge, said her lawyer. Vision courtesy Seven News.

Accused drug smuggler Cassandra Sainsbury has been sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison under a plea deal approved by a Colombian judge, said her lawyer. Vision courtesy Seven News.

This is the second plea deal for Ms Sainsbury, after the first deal was thrown out in August, after Ms Sainsbury claimed she was threatened. The previous deal only covered people unaware of their situation.

This time, according to Mr Herrán, the judge felt that she had been 'a small fish' who had been threatened.

Mr Herrán said the judge accepted the deal in order to send a message to Australians that they would be caught and prosecuted if they tried to smuggle drugs from Colombia.

Mr Herrán was able to clear up that the Australian government had been picking up the tab for Ms Sainsbury's defence until the end of August.  

It is unclear whether Ms Sainsbury will receive additional consular support while serving her sentence.