UK

Drugs Mule Grandmother Lindsay Sandiford Loses Supreme Court Appeal To Fight Bali Death Sentence

16/07/2014 10:17 BST | Updated 16/07/2014 10:59 BST

A grandmother on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking has lost a battle over a government policy to not fund legal representation of Britons facing capital charges abroad.

Five Supreme Court justices in London unanimously dismissed a challenge by Lindsay Sandiford, 57, from Cheltenham, Gloucester, who was convicted last year of trafficking drugs into the resort island of Bali and sentenced to death by firing squad.

But the court pointed out that she remains in "jeopardy" and the evidence now called for a further urgent review of the policy in her case.

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Lindsay June Sandiford fans herself as she arrives at the courthouse for a hearing in Denpasar, Bali

The judges were told at a hearing last month that she is effectively without legal representation in Indonesia to allow her to pursue a further hearing of her case, and has "no access to any further private funding".

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

Today's ruling by Lords Mance, Clarke, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson follows a Court of Appeal defeat for Sandiford in April last year when three leading judges 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.

O'Neill told the Supreme Court: "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."

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".

"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."

Last year's Court of Appeal ruling followed an earlier High Court decision 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 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 Sandiford's appeal at the UK's Supreme Court last month, 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."

"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.

Sandiford has previously described the refusal to fund her appeal as "tantamount to condoning the death penalty".

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC 5 Live, Sandiford said via email: "The Government has done very little to support me. The FCO has done even less.

"However, I have been able to talk about my situation and will continue to do so because there are others in a similar desperate plight that are not seen.

"There are, and will continue to be, British nationals facing execution without lawyers and because they can not raise their voices the Government is standing by refusing to assist with funding of lawyers for them.

"This action is tantamount to condoning the death penalty. Just giving and the public have done what the British Government fight not to do at great public expense."

But she did express her gratitude to those people that have helped her. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the people who made donations together with the uplifting messages of support," she said. "In my darkest hour, this was like a ray of sunshine. I was beginning to feel that my situation was unbearable. I felt totally stranded and alone.

"The public's caring has shown just how wrong you can be. I am blessed to know my family loved me whatever. Just giving has shown me that you're never alone. People really do care when they know."