Firing Squad for Grandma

05/01/2015 15:04 | Updated 07 March 2015

A British grandmother who was coerced into trafficking drugs into Bali and cooperated with the authorities remains on death row in Bali as the British Government refuse to fund her defence. The British courts would not intervene and the newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo (who has more women in his cabinet than any previous Government) has recently indicated that no mercy will be given to drug traffickers. Lindsay Sandiford is serving her sentence in Kerobokan Prison which cannot remotely be described as pleasant. She was sentenced to death by firing squad last year having been convicted of importing cocaine into Bali. The Reprieve report on her situation found that "The Indonesian authorities failed to inform the British embassy that she had been arrested - in breach of their international obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights - and she was held for ten days before anyone knew what had happened. Lindsay ...was appointed neither a lawyer nor a translator. She was forced to sign numerous documents in a language she did not understand, and was deprived of sleep and threatened by the authorities with a gun. Lindsay cooperated fully with the Indonesian authorities following her arrest, including taking part in a risky sting operation. Between her arrest and trial, Lindsay had three different Indonesian lawyers, none of whom provided her with effective legal assistance... On 4 October 2012, Lindsay appeared in court without a lawyer. ... Lindsay was also unrepresented at the next hearing because she was unable to find a lawyer to assist her pro bono. Dr Jennifer Fleetwood, an expert on women exploited in the international drug trade, gave evidence to Denpasar District Court during Lindsay's trial. She concluded that Lindsay was coerced and found that "there is... evidence to suggest that a trafficker would seek someone who was vulnerable. Having reviewed extracts from Lindsay's medical records I know that Lindsay has a history of mental health issues... This may have unfortunately made her an attractive target for threats, manipulation and coercion." The prosecutor announced on 20 December 2012 that he would be asking the judges to impose a sentence of 15 years, rather than the death penalty. Yet, on 22 January 2013, a panel of judges sentenced Lindsay to death. So far her appeals have been rejected".

Lindsay also sought a judicial review of the UK Government refusal to provide funds for the legal representation of British nationals facing criminal proceedings overseas but appallingly the case was dismissed as having "no reasonable prospect of success". An appeal against this decision was rejected in the Supreme Court and there has been no announcement of a change of heart by the British Government. It follows that the British Government and Courts have condemned a woman to death who had a potentially complete defence of duress to a criminal charge. The Supreme Court endorsed this, unanimously holding that Lindsay did not come within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. This leaves Lindsay at the mercy of the Indonesian Authorities. The judgement records the view the Supreme Court took of this as follows:

"[The judgments] raise the most serious issues as to the functioning of the local judicial system... the local courts appeared to have ignored the substantial mitigating factors in her case, including her age and mental problems, her lack of any previous record, her co-operation with the police, and not least the remarkable disparity of her sentence with those of the members of the syndicate whom she helped to bring to justice."

Worse still it seems that the Foreign Secretary considered whether to depart from that policy in Lindsay's case and chose not to. The court alluded to common law fundamental rights in the context of a possible rationality challenge but did not fall back on the common law principle of fairness in a situation where very few British nationals facing the death penalty abroad. It seems Britain is even behind Mexico which, along with other countries, provides for funding to their national facing trial abroad in death penalty cases. The likelihood of assistance by the local Indonesian authorities is dimmed by the local reaction to the release of Shappelle Corby from the same prison which was said to set a bad precedent

There are Indonesian lawyers available. The cost is nothing like what will have been spent on the English funding appeals and £10 is about 200,000 rupiah. Lindsay will have to wait and see if the new Foreign Secretary will change the decision and help her - or hope for a benefactor - There was a sniff of one in November but time is running out. I am told she is out of time for an appeal and out of time for an appeal for clemency - I suppose at the very least someone ought to give Phillip Hammond a calculator as it seems that the British Government was prepared to spend more money on upholding a blanket policy not to help citizens abroad facing the death penalty than it would take for her to have proper representation and a fair hearing.