A British couple has been sentenced to three months in jail for having sex on a Dubai beach this summer.

Judge Hamdi Mustafa Abu el-Khair sentenced Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors to the prison term, as well as a fine of $350 and deportation from Dubai after having served their sentence.

Neither defendant was in court to hear this morning's verdict, which defense lawyers have vowed to appeal.

Palmer, 36, has been suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She had been excused from appearing in court by doctor's orders.

The couple was arrested in July and charged with sex outside marriage, public indecency and drunkenness.

However, their sentence is seen as relatively light, given that they could have faced several years in jail for their crimes.

Their case has become a symbol of a clash of cultures that has pitted Dubai's Western expat majority against the conservative laws enforced by Emirati rulers.

Analysts here say their punishment is meant to strike a balance — by showing that expats must respect local laws, while maintaining the Emirate's image of being welcoming to Westerners.

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