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 1446.

    Here's a thought. Just because it's the law, doesn't make it right.

    People who believe that stand for progress. People who don't should read up on a bit of history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1445.

    Unfortunately, this is the price you pay. You were obviously aware of the consequences of trafficking drugs, so now you deserve to accept of the penalty that is tagged to it. I would never in my life condole death upon anybody and I certainly don't in this case. People like this though, are the reason society fails to accept itself. It's people like this that destroy mankind. No sympathy at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1444.

    This woman knew what she was doing but greed got the better of her. I fully support the sentence.
    With the proliferation of drugs I believe we too should execute drug pedlars in the UK. This softly, softly approach has proven not to work so a much stricter justice should be meted out. It's high time we took a page out of Bali's book and acted to stamp out the vermin who import/sell drugs here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1443.

    Indonesia sets the penalty, and foreigners aren't exempt.

    But now, I'll always associate the word "Bali" with the words "firing squad".

    I've never taken cocaine. I never will. But I avoid the firing squad countries. When the penalties are so harsh, I worry that corrupt police may attempt to plant drugs on me to extort money.

    It's not worth the risk. So I stay away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1442.

    Why do British people think they can go abroad and expect leniency when they flout the laws of those countries? Drug smugglers deserve what they get as they deal death to others, so being shot for smuggling is suitable and just. Shame this country doesn't have the courage to deal with despicable offenders more effectively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1441.

    Shocking to see such a lack of compassion through messages here. The death penalty needs to be abolished worldwide, no matter the crime. There is no place for it in the 21st century. I sincerely hope that Sandiford's harsh sentence is repealed and that she is returned safely to the UK soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1440.

    I find her guilty. I dont think that she should be shot. Punishment is prison with a hefty fine. Passport removed. She deserves it. Make a example off her. If she had got away with it she would off got rich, and our children would be using drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1439.

    So Lindsay Sandiford grassed up everyone to get a lighter sentance,but it back fired on her.She put my Sister Racheal's name up and my sister got a one year Sentance for doing nothing.So I have no symphony for her at all,just look on the internet and you will find the truth about Lindsay Sandiford ,no I do not feel sorry for her.I feel for my sister

  • rate this

    Comment number 1438.

    Most of us do not get threatened by drug dealers, she has obviously been involved with the wrong people at some point. I dont agree with the death penalty however every country has the right to chose their own law. I have to say though that death by firing squad seems a bit barbaric!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1437.

    Whilst I do not know the intricate details of this woman's case, I do pity her greed and stupidity. People want to make easy money trafficking drugs, they have little concern at the time for the morality of it or indeed where it ends up, they only consider their own personal gain. They or course understand the penalty if caught but the prize out-weighs the risk and so they take it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1436.

    Never taken drugs or smoked but sorry death penalty,Some of you are pretty screwed up wanting this.I don't know this woman and nor do you, so how can you judge. There punishing the wrong person harshly, will they bother finding the organizers, probably not. Just won't to make a murdering point. Maybe they could bring this law here for those parents who pollute their kids with second hand smokeDIG

  • rate this

    Comment number 1435.

    She was probably counting on being old, female and British as a guaranteee against teh death penalty if she didn't get through with her payload.

    She gambled and lost. Let the penalty be paid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1434.

    One day Britain may come to accept that Brits abroad must realise that they have no right to expect to be tried and sentenced by British standards. Ignorance of the Law is no defence in British Law either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1433.

    Wonder if she was set up by the guys who gave her the drugs?

    It is well known that drug gangs send two shipments at the same time. One shipment gets through and the other the police get a tip off from the gang.

    That makes the police look efficient. Everyone is happy apart from the poor soul left carrying the bag that is searched.

    Also, Death penalty is wrong for drug trafficking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1432.

    Has this deterred anyone here from transporting drugs into Indonesia?

    If not, then please explain why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1431.

    This is the Indonesian judicial system:

    It has nothing to do with justice. Nothing. It is high time the media began to expose it, or it will keep happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1430.

    Much as I disagree with this, and the BBC is trolling for people's opinions on how evil people in bali are, they are entitled to make up whatever laws they like. Goodness only knows we have some really stupid laws in the UK too, for example you get less time in jail for murder than for eating a magic mushroom, it's illegal to pirate software etc etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1429.


    please elaborate on those considered as "savages" deserving the death penalty: the same type the empire Brits described colonials in Africa, India, Far East, Australia? the same type the US govt described native Americans before genocide?

    Check on the meaning of "savages" before exposing your "civilised" background.

    BTW, OK to let off blood raged non-old people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1428.

    I'm not sure whether I agree with the death penalty or not, it's seems barbaric, but there's little point keeping someone in jail for their entire life at the expense of everyone else (including victims).

    I know that I don't feel any real sympathy for this person; largely because drug dealers/smugglers are some of the lowest people in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1427.

    A public execution would send out a clear message to all drug dealers.


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