British government lodges ‘strong objection’ as grandmother sentenced to death for carrying drugs in Bali
THE British government has strongly objected to the death penalty imposed today on a woman who trafficked drugs into Indonesia.
Lindsay Sandiford, 56, originally from Redcar, Teesside, was arrested in May last year after police in Bali said they found 10.6lb (4.8kg) of cocaine worth £1.6 million in the lining of her suitcase.
There were gasps of surprise at Denpasar District Court when the sentence was passed, as not even the prosecution had been seeking the death penalty.
Sandiford wept as she was led away and covered her face with a scarf. Previously, she claimed in court that she was forced into taking the drugs into the country by gangsters who were threatening to hurt one of her children.
British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire told the House of Commons: "We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time."
Mr Swire said "repeated representations" had been made to the Indonesian authorities and Foreign Secretary William Hague had raised the case with his counterpart in the country.
He added: "We understand that under Indonesian law, Lindsay has at least two further avenues of appeal through the courts as well as an opportunity to apply for presidential clemency should these be unsuccessful."
Delivering the sentence, a panel headed by Judge Amser Simanjuntak concluded that Sandiford had damaged Bali's image as a tourist destination and weakened its anti-drugs programme.
The judge told the court: "We found no reason to lighten her sentence."
Prosecutors said during Sandiford's trial that they were seeking a 15-year prison term.
In her witness statement, Sandiford said: "I would like to begin by apologising to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement.
"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."
During the trial, her lawyer read out a statement from her son which said: "I love my mother very much and have a very close relationship with her.
"I know that she would do anything to protect me. I cannot imagine what I would do if she was sentenced to death in relation to these charges."
Three other Britons were arrested at the same time as Sandiford in a sting operation.
Julian Ponder and Rachel Dougall were accused of being involved in the same smuggling operation. Paul Beales was also detained.
At the time of her arrest, Dougall, who has a young daughter, insisted she was the victim of a "fit-up" and Ponder claimed he was "trapped".
Ponder's lawyer claimed he was told that Sandiford was delivering a present for his child's birthday and, when he met her to receive the gift, police officers arrested him.
A verdict is expected in the trial of Ponder tomorrow.
He is accused of receiving the drugs in Bali, which has a club scene where party drugs are bought and sold between foreigners.
A university professor and expert on women in the international drug trade who submitted expert evidence during the trial said she was shocked by the "completely disproportionate" sentence.
Jennifer Fleetwood, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent, said it was very likely that Sandiford had been coerced into acting as a drug mule.
"They take the risk, sometimes they make money, but if they are being threatened they may well get nothing.
"I have spoken to drug traffickers and drug mules and everyone says the role is minor. They often won't know what it is they are carrying and are told it is gold or money."
The lecturer, based at the university's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, said Sandiford could have been targeted because of her poor mental health.
Dr Fleetwood said Indonesia has not executed anyone since 2008, when 10 people, including two foreigners, were killed.
She said there are approximately 100 people on death row, of whom 41 are foreign nationals.
Human rights charity Reprieve, which is assisting Sandiford, said she played a minor role.
Investigator Harriet McCulloch said: "Lindsay has always maintained that she only agreed to carry the package to Bali after receiving threats against the lives of her family.
"She is clearly not a drug kingpin - 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 co-operated 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."