UK

Drugs Mule Grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, On Death Row In Bali, Needs Government Help To Appeal, Supreme Court Told

04/06/2014 21:02 BST | Updated 04/06/2014 21:59 BST

A woman on death row in Indonesia with "one last chance" of challenging her sentence is appealing to the UK's highest court over the lawfulness of a Government policy not to provide funding for legal representation to Britons facing capital charges abroad.

Five Supreme Court justices in London heard that grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, - convicted last year of trafficking drugs into the resort island of Bali - is effectively without legal representation in Indonesia and has "no access to any further private funding".

Her QC Aidan O'Neill told the judges that previously Sandiford had been able to fund her legal fight against the death sentence in the Indonesian courts through the "kindness of strangers".

lindsay sandiford

Lindsay June Sandiford of Britain puts her face in her hands as she attends her trial at a court in Denpasar on the Indonesian resort island of Bali

He said: "The current situation of the appellant is that she has one last chance of seeking review or appeal through the courts against the death penalty being carried out on her - by way of application for judicial review to the Indonesian Supreme Court. This requires a detailed knowledge of Indonesian law."

O'Neill told Lords Mance, Clarke, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson that there was also the possibility of her submitting a petition for clemency to the Indonesian Government, which also "requires a close knowledge of the Indonesian judicial and political situation and environment".

He added: "The appellant is however effectively without legal representation in Indonesia to allow her to pursue this line of judicial review, and she has no access to any further private funding which might otherwise allow her to instruct a suitably qualified lawyer."

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In April last year, three Court of Appeal judges in London ruled that the UK Government's policy of not providing funding for legal representation to any British national who faced criminal proceedings abroad - even in death penalty cases - was not unlawful.

That decision followed an earlier High Court ruling that the Government was not legally obliged to pay for "an adequate lawyer" to represent Sandiford, who was sentenced to death by firing squad after being found with cocaine worth an estimated £1.6 million as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, in May 2012.

Appeal judges heard at the time of the hearing before them last year that she needed around £8,000 for her legal fight against the sentence.

Following those proceedings, she received donations covering the sum needed.

Dismissing her challenge at the Court of Appeal, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said the question was not whether the Foreign Secretary could produce a different policy "which many would regard as fairer and more reasonable and humane than the present policy", but whether the policy he had produced was "irrational".

He concluded: "I am in no doubt that the policy is not irrational.

"It is based on reasoning which is coherent and which is neither arbitrary nor perverse."

Sandiford, originally from Redcar, Teesside - who claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to protect her children, whose safety was at stake - was sentenced to death in January 2013 by judges of the District Court of Denpasar in Bali.

She appealed, but her case was rejected by the High Court of Denpasar.

Last August, a three-judge panel at the Indonesian Supreme Court in Jakarta also rejected her appeal.

In written submissions opposing the appeal today, Martin Chamberlain QC, for the Foreign Secretary, said: "The death penalty is among the punishments to which the Government is opposed in all circumstances as a matter of principle."

It supported initiatives designed to encourage states which retained the death penalty to change their position and makes grants to charities such as Reprieve, which assisted individuals who were charged with capital offences.

In "appropriate cases" it also made "state to state representations".

Chamberlain said the statutory legal aid scheme extended only to legal proceedings in the UK, and the Government "has not established an analogous scheme to cover legal expenses for British nationals involved in criminal proceedings abroad, even where the proceedings may result in the imposition of punishments to which it is strongly opposed".

He told the judges that the policy did not allow funding to be given, even in exceptional circumstances, but added: "However, that does not mean that the appellant's individual circumstances have been ignored."

Specific consideration was given to the question whether the policy should be changed in the light of those circumstances.

"The conclusion was that the appellant's case could not be regarded as more compelling than many others and that the policy should not be changed to allow payments in this case," he said.