Bali drugs: Death sentence for Briton Lindsay Sandiford


The BBC's Karishma Vaswani says there were gasps from the court as the sentence was passed

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A 56-year-old British grandmother has been sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

Lindsay Sandiford was arrested at Bali's airport in May last year after 4.8kg (10.6lb) of cocaine was found in the lining of her suitcase during a routine customs check.

Sandiford, whose last UK address was in Gloucestershire, said she was coerced into bringing the drugs to the island.

Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire has condemned the sentence.

He told MPs the government strongly objected to the death penalty imposed.

Her lawyers have said they were "surprised" at the verdict and would appeal. Prosecutors had recommended a 15-year sentence of imprisonment.

At the scene

There was an audible gasp of surprise in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.

Although the maximum penalty for drug trafficking in Indonesia is death, the prosecution had recommended a 15 year sentence, saying Sandiford's age should be taken into consideration and the fact that she has no prior convictions.

But delivering their verdict the judges said there were no mitigating reasons that convinced them they should reduce their sentence.

They added that Mrs Sandiford did not appear to care about the consequences of her actions.

Walking out of the court room the 56-year-old from Gloucestershire appeared shocked, covering her head with a brown sarong, hiding her face from the glare of the cameras.

Her lawyer has said they will definitely appeal. He added it was very rare that judges delivered a sentence that was so much harsher than the prosecution had recommended.

But the judges said there were no mitigating circumstances and the defendant did not appear to care about the consequences of her actions.

They said Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourism destination and weakened the government's anti-drugs programme.

Sandiford's lawyer said it was very rare that judges delivered a sentence so much harsher than the prosecution had recommended, the BBC's Jakarta correspondent Karishma Vaswani reported from the court.

The defendant appeared shocked and covered her head with a brown sarong to hide her face from the glare of cameras, our correspondent added.

Sandiford, originally from Redcar in Teesside, was accused of being at the centre of a ring involving three other Britons.

Last year, Paul Beales was sentenced to four years for possession of drugs and Rachel Dougall was jailed for one year for failing to report a crime.

The drug possession trial of Julian Ponder, from Brighton - who is believed to be Dougall's partner - is still taking place. He is alleged to have collected cocaine from Sandiford.

Sandiford was arrested after a flight from Bangkok, Thailand.

Her case had been taken up by the British human rights charity Reprieve, which said she had been "targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children".

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire: "We strongly object to the death penalty"

It says she was held for 10 days without access to a lawyer or translator after her arrest and the Indonesian authorities failed to inform the British embassy during this time.

In response to the sentence, Reprieve's Harriet McCulloch said: "She is clearly not a drug king pin - she has no money to pay for a lawyer, for the travel costs of defence witnesses or even for essentials like food and water.

"She has cooperated fully with the Indonesian authorities but has been sentenced to death while the gang operating in the UK, Thailand and Indonesia remain free to target other vulnerable people."

During the trial Sandiford's defence lawyer told Denpasar District Court that a history of mental health problems made her vulnerable.

In a witness statement, Mrs Sandiford apologised to "the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people" for her involvement.

She added: "I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them".

In another statement read out in court, her son Eliot said he believed his mother was forced into trafficking after a disagreement over rent money she paid on his behalf.

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drug laws in the world, but BBC correspondents say executions rarely take place.

Most of the 40 foreigners currently on death row in Indonesia have been convicted of drug offences, according to Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes, but there have been no executions in the country since 2008, said the institute said.

The UK Foreign Office says there are currently 12 British nationals facing the death penalty abroad. A further 55 face charges which carry a possible death sentence.

It said: "We are aware that Lindsay Sandiford is facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham: "This move is quite unexpected and obviously very worrying"

"We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time."

It said "repeated representations" about the case were made to Indonesia following her arrest and the foreign secretary had raised the case during the Indonesian president's state visit in November.

The Foreign Office says its policy is to use "all appropriate influence" to prevent the execution of a British national including "high-level political lobbying when necessary".

But BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said any pressure by the UK government in Sandiford's case was now likely to occur after the judicial appeals process was complete.

Death penalty case Britons

  • 2009 - Samantha Orobator sentenced to life in Laos for heroin smuggling. Spared death penalty after becoming pregnant in prison and later transferred to UK jail
  • 1993 - Sandra Gregory given death penalty in Thailand for heroin smuggling, later transferred to UK jail after sentence commuted to 25 years imprisonment
  • 1989 - Derrick Gregory hanged in Malaysia for heroin smuggling

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood said the verdict was unexpected and "very worrying" and he would seek to raise the sentence with Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"I'm appalled by this development," he told the BBC.

"We had been given encouraging signals by the Indonesian ambassador that Indonesia was moving away from the death penalty, that this was something that was associated with the days of the dictatorship, long since past."

Meanwhile, Sebastian Saville, the former chief executive of the human rights charity Release, said the sentence was "utterly deplorable".

But he said: "There are many people executed every year in local countries - Thailand, Cambodia - for much smaller amounts of drugs.... So it does not fall out of the remit for someone caught with 5kg of cocaine to be given the death sentence."

He added: "If we took a referendum in this country... should people caught with 5kg of cocaine be executed, yes or no... I think you'd be surprised about the number of yeses, as we live in a world which believes in punishment, not in fixing things."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1346.

    To argue that she should not be executed because we believe it is too harsh a punishment like saying that an American can come to the UK and wield an assault rifle because it is allowed in their country.

    You accept the standards of the country you are visiting and if you don't abide by them, you suffer the consequences, no matter how dire.

    It's called 'Sovereignty'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1345.

    Mr 1327, I agree no one person can deprive another one person of life but society can and the Indonesian society has obviously decided to do so via its democratic and legal systems. People who threaten society at large, which includes drug traffickers, are not wanted by society ... so, lights out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1344.

    Can the death penalty be justified as punishment in any civilised society? Personally I think not. But then on the same page as this items appears we have Prince Harry glorifying his killing role in a military context, something he “enjoys”. Conclusion? It is impossible to make sense of the world of humankind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1343.

    "If Indonesia is considered uncivilised by you , how do you rank the USA ?
    They execute more people !"

    Not for drug trafficking though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1342.

    A note to all you do-gooder's.

    How about we make every drug legal? Then see how many times your mugged, your homes are broken into, and they're the nice things!
    Or maybe we could adopt a far harder stance here, not just to drug smugglers but all criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1341.

    I have never been, and never intend, to go to Indonesia but even I know the penalty for drug smuggling there. No doubt this woman thought being old, female and British would stack the odds against getting a death sentence heavily in her favour. She thought wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1340.

    We all have options in life - she chose BADLY. Stop making excuses for her,feeling sorry for her,saying it`s barbaric,it`s not right - some of you on here would be bringing her back to get an OBE.I`ve worked in prisons and we are bloody soft on crime in this country with criminals having steak whilst pensioners freeze.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1339.

    People here seem to have no idea that the legal system in Indonesia is used as a tool of an Autocratic dictatorship.This is a country that whips Muslims for staying in the same room as someone from the opposite sex!! Trial as propaganda.
    The death penalty is not acceptable anywhere in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1338.


    My children are in their 30's but if they were being threatened in any way I would not be too pleased either. It doesn't matter how old or young your children are - they are still your children and you would do anything to protect them. I am in no way condoning what she has done but as a parent could understand her motives & she does not deserve to be killed for such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1337.

    Drugs is the worst evil on our children - she knew the risks and should take the punishment. Kill her

  • rate this

    Comment number 1336.

    Absolutely awful and barbaris, whatever the crime.

    And the people behind this in the first place (the main dealers) will be safely tucked away on a yacht somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1335.

    I just can not believe how gullible some people are on here.

    Claiming she was coerced into helping her son by importing what would undoubtedly be death for at least one other person.

    "Sorry, I had to kill your teenage daughter, it was because I had to help my son."

    Would you kill someone to help your child?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1334.

    Sergoba; There is no death penalty here and our prisons are a touch more humanitarian, so yes, it is VERY different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1333.

    n the 21st century Indosia has executed 7 people. 3 were those found guily for the terrorist bombings of Bali in 2002, 3 were Catholic Indonesians convicted of involvement in riots in 2000 which led to the deaths of 200 people (Indonesian muslims involved got no more than 15 years) and the other one was a serial killer who killed 42 women and girls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1332.

    Are well, one less drugs pusher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1331.

    If Bali Cannot See that LindSay - is not a Drug Cartel - given her age - it Should have Compassion..
    Shame on Bali - i heard - it has bad tourism - with bad toilets .
    Bali is Filled with Hate,Untolerance,UnWelcoming, Ignorant of Compassion - Just My Opinion Though..
    I will Not even take a Transit Flight Via BALI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1330.

    My family are Mormons and ex-police, they wouldn't do anything like that"

    Is that because they have a strong moral compass or because they are worried about the consequences? It's always disturbing when religious people claim the reason they are good is to avoid hell-fire and eternal damnation rather than because they have high ethical standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1329.

    Stop trying to put everyone on an emotional guilt trip! Please do not refer to Lindsay as an elderly person - she is only 56, (old enough to know better) and as for grandmother, you can be a grandmother at 36 or younger. No matter what her age or circumstances carrying drugs is wrong anywhere and she knew what she was doing. Break the laws of another country, you have to take their punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1328.

    Before you visit another country for legitimate reasons or otherwise check it out and when you get there keep your head down and obey their laws. And remember - "They made me do it" - cuts no ice anywhere. This is an appalling case but we see lesser cases of 'Brits abroad' - perpetrator or victim - all the time - Bali is a long way from home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1327.

    If this sentence stands, i can tell the Indonesian Government I will be boycotting my tourism plans. Having read this on my lunch break i feel pysically sick on what this women must feel.

    Our instinct is to protect our children, notwithstanding the full facts of this case the death penalty has no place in any society. No one gave a human the right to take another humans life.



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