British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "deeply disappointed and concerned" about the life sentence handed down to a British academic accused of spying in the United Arab Emerates.

Matthew Hedges, 31, was sentenced when he appeared in court in Abu Dhabi, a representative for his family said.

The Middle Eastern studies specialist from Durham University visited the country to research his PhD thesis and was arrested in Dubai Airport on 5 May.

At his last hearing, on 24 October, a court-appointed lawyer maintained Mr Hedges' innocence, arguing that the evidence brought forward - Mr Hedges' notes from his PhD research - did not contain anything confidential, meaning the court should review it before passing judgement.

The court agreed and postponed the hearing until today.

Mr Hedges was released from detention on 29 October and had been staying in Dubai, with an ankle bracelet monitoring his movements.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mrs May said she would be raising the case with the Emirati authorities "at the highest level".

"The Foreign Office will remain in close contact with Matthew, his family and his lawyer," she told MPs.

"We will continue to do all we can to support them as they consider the next steps and we will continue to press this matter at the highest level with the Emiratis."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt, have both previously travelled to the UAE to make representations on Mr Hedges' behalf.