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 766.

    This very tragic and the woman was being very foolish but if it is the case of
    "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".

    Can we expect that a complaint has been to the police in the UK and they are currently investigating the threats made to this family. Has her family reported it to the police?

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    For heaven's sake this is only one human life. If she had been successful, God only knows how many human lives would have been lost.

  • Comment number 764.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.


    And as I stated in my original post, my concern is not about Bali's legal system or the sentence passed down, that is for her lawyers and Balis' judiciary to sort out. My concern is with all the 'armchair executioners' posting here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    Can't do the time, don't do the crime.
    The death penalty should be applied to vicious killers in this country as well

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    If you traffick drugs you pay the price. Pity we don't use the same sentence in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    Brits seem to think that just becos we are a 1st world country we have the right to dictate what is right and wrong.The fact remains that you have to RESPECT the laws of other countries. Calling Bali barbaric or uncivilised is just plain rude. As for this woman, she knew the consequences of drug smuggling and she gambled and lost.The End, let's move on to more news-worthy articles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    NothingBut @ 199 - Where's her compassion for the people whose lives would have been ruined by that 5kg of cocaine?

    If you drink-drive and kill someone should you be punished according to the law of the country you're in or shouldyou get a "get out of jail free card" on the basis of compassion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    Would Reprieve put forward the same argument for a foreign national caught with the same quantity of drugs in the UK? There are many in British prisons who have no access to such support and legal representation.

  • Comment number 757.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.


    We don't want your taxes (or presence) full stop, I'd like to think that our taxpayers value compassion/forgiveness over efficiency/revenge.

    Any evidence that the death penalty lowers crime rates might also give your argument a touch more credibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Well done to the Indonesian justice system and the trial Judge. The sooner the UK brings back the death penalty the better for all concerned.Drugs smugglers are murderers and to my mind are in the same category as those terrorists who kill and maim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    People - Rmember - Public Be-Heading is common scene in Saudi Arabia - No Law - Judge - Jury .. but we wont have the heart to stand up to the Saudis to stop indiscriminately beheading people.

    I Condemn the Death Sentence.. it is Too harsh - William Hague Should make a Statement and Say to Bali - there will be Consequences.Habeus Corpus is there to protect Sandiford too. God Save Sandy !!! Amen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    Its unjust that a state operates the death penalty for those carrying drugs becasue its easier than catching the real dealer who organise the trade.
    The truth is that no matter how many stupid, greedy , foolish of manupulated people they imprison or kill, they will not end the drugs trade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    It is simply a case of how Indonesia prefers to handle injustice! They state smuggling drugs is punishable by death!! What is it about that sentence that people fail to understand?

    This country is in a mess because of its justice is a joke!! This lady will probably hope her lawyers can agree a transfer to a British holiday home (prison) and spend her days warm and comfortable!

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Oh dear, what a shame.

    Really, all actions have consequences, it just so happens the consequences in this country are rather severe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    Sorry I meant 15 years not 1 year and her family should foot the bill !!
    Many people are affected by drugs and this woman is party to it.
    The storys told would not have come to ight if she had got through She is Guilty and now must suffer the reality as will the thousands who are left with the burden of those who profit from selling and smuggling drugs

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    "The judge is obviously using her as an example and he is probably sick to the death of westerners saying they were set up. Cant blame him really"

    Except you can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    89. LB
    "No matter what the penalty is, you will always get someone who is willing take the risk. The only thing that truly changes is the final price the junkies pay, as the higher the risks the higher the price"

    Cocaine is the drug of choice for the elite in this country - bankers, accountants, aristocrats ... are these the junkies you are referring to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.


    Im not trying to prove or disprove that, did you read my post?? As previously discussed, witness testimony can not be regarded as fact given the obvious agenda the two witnesses have in influencing the argument. The fact is a qualified judge deemed the FACT she was caught with drugs her responsibility! Is it ok to murder somebody who threatens you're family in the UK?


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