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 1426.

    The law in Indonesia is clear on drugs and the death penalty. Nobody is above the law in any country. I am against the death penalty because life is too precious, but the comments here are truly appalling. Just because you are British doesn't mean you can do whatever you like in other countries - binge drink, vandalise hotels, etc. When in Rome...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1425.

    @Tzichy. Far from the death sentence deterring me, I would be happy to visit knowing they have a zero tolerance for drug smuggling. Just because we choose not to take this path shouldn't and won't deter people from visiting. Yours is a crass statement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1424.

    She deserves the full sentence of the law. If your in someone elses country, then obey their laws. Indonesia is not like Britain where you would just get a slap on your wrists.

    I reckon the government will attempt to intervene in any case and would not be surprised to see this drug dealing granny back here in about 5 - 10 years time if not sooner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1423.

    Far too many cavalier attitudes on here.

    No one doubts Mali have the right to set their own laws and enforce them. No one doubts if found guilty people should face punishment.

    However I think I am not alone in saying the Death Penalty is beyond harsh. Drug takers need to take more responsibility for their actions, not Traffickers caught up in a bad situation!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1422.

    For once I think the penalty imposed should take place. Her actions put the lives of individuals and families in already desperate situations worse. The world will never be free of drugs, but if the deterrents were carried out and not just used as empty threats, then maybe there would be fewer drug dealers. Then perhaps people like her would stop smuggling drugs just to earn a quick buck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1421.

    1378. Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

    ." . . where is it written that capital punishment is wrong? do a straw poll along your high street and I guarantee that the majority will be in favour of the death penalty"

    You do not speak for any "majority" you plum. You speak for yourself and no one else.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1420.

    The fact that she didn't appear to care about the consequences of her actions should not have dammed her, but demonstrated her vulnerablility and naivety. A savvy career criminal would have have told every lie possible to avoid the death sentence, including mock repentence. Now they have used a poor and vulnerable individual to make a point to other westerners I hope they will spare her life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1419.

    People who think she should get a soft sentence simply has no understanding of the crime. Drug pushers target vulnerable people and get them hooked on this evil. Keep in mind its not only recreational use to enhance a night out. There are so many crimes linked to drug smuggling and SHE is helping it happen. She knew what she was doing. I wonder how many other trips she has made to the area..!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1418.

    Nothing But. How about a little compassion for the families & relatives of children and adults who lives have been ended by people like this Lindsey Shepard. She knew what she was doing. If her drug consignment got on to the streets, how many more people would die through her greed. She knew what she was doing, she knew the penalties. Shoot her and the rest of her cronies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1417.

    I've worked as a health professional for 12 years. I've been in constant contact with drug users and their families their children. I've been on scene on numerous heroin overdoses, working on them as their children look on. I've had to inform next of kin that their relatives that their farther son and so on have died. I have no sympathy for any British drug mule caught abroad. Payment for greed !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1416.

    56 is not old by any stretch of the imagination. She is reported as carrying a massive amount of a drug that is illegal in her own country, would she have carried into the UK under duress or not?
    However, how many of you realise that in Saudi Arabia you can be imprisoned for carrying your own prescribed medication simply because it contains codeine?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1415.

    This women was part of a chain that could have resulted in who families being ruined.

    Shoot her and be done.

    We British shoot so called terrorists, in their own countries and in the process we bomb their families, hospitals, schools!!!

    Bali understands the true meaning of ZERO TOLERANCE. However I do not agree with their lack of procedure or allowing dignity. That is barbaric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1414.

    I saw many comments disgracing a country for their tough law on drugs prosession. Why don't you think about the ppls conditions from the consequences of taking drugs. It ruined everything including your loved ones. This is what happen to my country and that's why they got death penalty for prosessing drugs. I'm a Malaysian anyway, and make sure you don't get caught with drugs on you in Malaysia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1413.

    While I respect that Indonesia has this law, and this sentence. I don't think this trial met International standards though. The failure of the Indonesian authorities to notify the British Embassy suggests something that there is potential tampering with this case.

  • Comment number 1412.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1411.

    You go to another country, you live by their rules! Human rights are one thing, but what of the human rights of those people who will be 'encouraged' to take the drugs? It's all about decisions. She made a poor one & must live with the consequences!
    Deal with it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1410.

    Unfortunately that is the price you pay in those parts of the world where drug smuggling is seen extremely seriously. In the same way that they'd respect our laws, as much as we don't like it, we have to respect their law. She knew the risks when she decided to try and smuggle 4.8kg of cocaine through customs, especially when it has a reported street value of £1.6 million.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1409.

    This country is full of people with double standards. they all blame drug dealers and users for all that is wrong in this country. people also complain when people from different countries are treated differently within our legal system. Yet they expect this drug smuggler to be treated differently because she is british. if you break the law in any country you have to deal with the consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1408.

    @ 253 esoen I used to live in this region. Unlike you I'm not so naive as to believe that western liberal values have any meaning globally. Hard though it is for a pampered westerner, just get used to the idea that in many countries you will be as powerless as the oceans of struggling humanity that live there. If you cant get your head round that I suggest you don't stray too far from the shire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1407.

    I don't think we're playing with a full pack of cards yet. We need hard evidence as to who the other conspirators (if any) are or were. As I understand it, Sandiford has simply alleged that others forced her to carry drugs. Who, what, where and when? Very vague - questions for her legal team on appeal. For her sake, I hope they're good. If she's lying the sentence should stand. Sovereignty.


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