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 1366.

    Can't help but wonder what has gone on in people's lives to have them so desperate for the blood of a vulnerable, middle-aged woman. She clearly isn’t some drug baron raking in millions, she cannot afford to pay for her own defense lawyers. Yes, drug’s do ruin people’s lives, yes she has made a terrible mistake, but does she really need to be fed to the wolves like some sacrificial lamb?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1365.

    She deserves what she gets, it is just a pity that we do not have the death penalty for this and other crimes. It is only the overpaid wimps at Westminster who do not want it, I wonder why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1364.

    If you don't think another countries laws are fair, then don't visit it or don't break them. Simple.

    She knew exactly what she was getting herself in to, and would have been aware of the possible consequences of her actions. She was caught, and now she must face those consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1363.

    I'm sorry, but all the sob stories won't wash for me. Drug smugglers are the people who make millions from the trade, and bring misery to the poor soles who take them. She took the risk, plenty of signs stating the consequences. Money money, it's a pity more countries don't do the same.

  • Comment number 1362.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1361.

    @michaeljohnson 'No human has the right to end another humans existence'

    Says who? Regardless of this news article, you've just made a very strange comment. What 'right' is in place and who gave it? I think you'll find that 'rights' are a man-made invention because life (to those who are alive) is viewed as sacred. Self-preservation is the driving force behind someone like you who, not 'rights'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1360.

    The laws for smuggling in this part of the world are very clear, 5Kg is not a small amount. I've lived in SE Asia and have seen the damage drugs do to people who are living in poverty. They have no tolerance at all to westerners smuggling drugs and adding to the problems. It's not relevant whether you agree with the death penalty, it is relevant that you have to abide by the laws of a country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1359.

    All those saying kill her have missed a point. How many of you would think rationally when your family is threatened? Would you risk your own family's well-being?

    Even the prosecutors were only asking for a 15 year prison sentence, which seems more than fair to me. Even they were shocked at the decision which says something about the nature of this sentence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1358.

    'My house my rules'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1357.


    "Most drug users use responsibly as most drinkers do."

    You clearly do not venture out to any major city centre at 2 am when the pubs close, or live on a crime riddled estate plagued by drugs and drug addiction. The same crime riddled estates that exist in every major town and city in the UK.

    Oh how the other half live, wouldn't have them on your estate though would you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1356.

    I don't care that others come here and break our laws and we do nothing. The fact that Bali sticks to it's laws is THEIR business. She knew the law. She knew the risks. She was free to take that risk. Which bring responsibility and consequences. Sympathy. No. Not one jot. If it was my mother I'd be horrified at her stupidity. We cannot condemn what we don't legislate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1355.

    "They said Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourism destination"
    It's more damaging to tourism that one could get sentanced to death there.

  • Comment number 1354.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1353.


    "...On arrival huge notices telling that drug smuggling is punishable by death..."

    Clearly, execution does not work as a deterrent then. Doesn't in the USA, doesn't anywhere else. If execution as a deterrent did work then only the very first person to have committed the crime would dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1352.

    I think each case needs to be judged in its own entirity. Why at her age this woman would be even remotely mixed up in this sort of thing is beyond me. I cannot see what reabilitation would do for her, therefore i have to agree that she should be made an example of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1351.

    @1344 im suprised you even tried

  • rate this

    Comment number 1350.

    I wouldn't go to Bali anyway. Although to British people it looks like an exotic destination, in reality it's Australia's version of Torremolinos- cheap, dirty and overrun with drunk tourists. Save yourself a small fortune and go to the Costa del Sol if that's what you're looking for otherwise Bali will likely be a huge disappointment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1349.

    Not in favour of the death penalty and I believe that people should be able to take whatever they like, but in Asia the sort of drug and alcohol culture that is tolerated here is what gives the farang a bad name. When I go there, I live by their rules and respect their cultures and traditions. Thailand has a tourist police for helping foreigners and a good consulate system. I have little sympathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1348.

    If someone comes to our country and commits a crime then and are caught then they are tried under British law, drug trafficking carries a minimum and maximum sentence here 5 - 30 years in prison. No one would disagree. This lady did what she did for whatever reason and got caught and there the maximum penalty is death. Harsh but it's there laws. My heart goes out to her and her family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1347.

    Will her execution be televised? That will send out a chilling warning to all drug dealers.


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