Bali drugs: Lindsay Sandiford loses legal funding case

Lindsay Sandiford in court in Denpasar, Bali, on 7 January Sandiford was held on the island last May with three other Britons

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A grandmother sentenced to death in Bali for drug trafficking has lost a High Court challenge to a UK government refusal to fund a lawyer for an appeal.

Lindsay Sandiford, 56, from Gloucestershire, was convicted last week after she was found with 4.8kg (10.6lb) of cocaine.

Her bid was backed by a human rights charity which wanted judges to rule the Foreign Office's stance was unlawful.

The court will give the reasons for its decision on Monday.

The judge, Mrs Justice Gloster, sitting with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, said that while the court understood "the deep concerns of Mrs Sandiford and her family about Mrs Sandiford's predicament" the case must be dismissed.

Sandiford faces death by firing squad following the Bali court's verdict on 22 January.

The High Court heard a notice of appeal was filed with Indonesian officials earlier this week and she was given a 14-day deadline to file grounds of appeal.

The Foreign Office said the UK opposed the use of the death penalty and has raised the case through diplomatic channels. It said the government does not fund legal representation for British nationals abroad.

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

Sandiford, whose case was backed by the charity Reprieve, was seeking a judicial review of the government's decision.

Commenting on the High Court decision, Reprieve investigator Harriet McCulloch said: "It is deeply disappointing that the Foreign Office chose to fight against helping Lindsay in the British courts, rather than fighting for her in Indonesia.

"Reprieve and Lindsay's family will now have to look for alternative sources of funding to ensure that Lindsay gets the assistance she so desperately needs."

Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing Sandiford, had argued that as the government had repeatedly confirmed its opposition to the death penalty it had a clear legal duty to ensure she received "appropriate assistance" to be able to file an appeal.

Her lawyer Richard Stein said: "Mrs Sandiford and her sister, both out in Bali, will be devastated by this decision.

"Whilst we have a judgment, we do not have the reasons for it. We await these before being able to formulate an appeal to what we believe is a fundamentally-flawed decision."

'No prospect'

Earlier, Aidan O'Neill QC, told the High Court that Sandiford was urgently in need of funding to pay for an "an adequate lawyer" because she was currently without legal assistance and her family had exhausted all of their available resources.

He said without government funding there was "no prospect" competent counsel would be appointed to represent her on appeal.

The Foreign Office could make arrangements, or provide funds to an expert non-governmental organisation like Reprieve, Mr O'Neill said.

The judges heard a lawyer had been found in Indonesia who was willing to waive fees and act pro bono, but required "operational costs" estimated at £2,500.

Mr O'Neill said the Foreign Office's blanket ban on providing legal representation to British nationals overseas meant it had unlawfully fettered its own discretion.

The government was breaching its obligation to the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to protect her right to life - and not to face the death penalty - he said.

The Foreign Office submitted evidence to the court showing that at present there are 13 British nationals who have received death sentences in foreign countries, and 51 others are potentially facing the same sentence.

Some, it said, have not requested British consular assistance while others have returned to the UK and are therefore not being assisted.

Mr O'Neill said if the government helped Sandiford it would not open the floodgates for other cases, as it feared.

'Human dignity'

Martin Chamberlain, appearing for the Foreign Office, said it would be difficult to limit a scheme of providing assistance to death sentence cases.

He suggested there would be pressure to extend it to other human rights cases where the "human dignity" of other British nationals came under threat.

Cases could include incidents where a Briton was "sentenced to 30 lashes because they are gay - or a sentence for driving a car because you are a woman".

Sandiford is originally from Redcar in Teesside but her last UK address was in Gloucestershire.

She was arrested after a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, and accused of being at the centre of a drugs ring involving three other Britons.

She has repeatedly denied she was attempting to sell drugs in Bali, insisting that she had been coerced into bringing cocaine into the island.

One of the Britons, Julian Ponder, 43, from Brighton, was jailed for six years earlier this week after being cleared of smuggling but convicted of possessing 23g of cocaine.

The two other Britons were also cleared of trafficking; one received a sentence of four years for possession and the other a one year term for failing to report a crime.

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