Indonesian court gives death to cocaine-smuggling British grandmother

British woman sentenced to die for smuggling drugs despite prosecutor's call for 15 years in jail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 2:34am


An Indonesian court yesterday sentenced a 56-year-old British grandmother to death for smuggling cocaine into the resort island of Bali.

Lindsay Sandiford sobbed as the verdict was delivered. The sentence stunned her defence team, as the prosecution had recommended a lenient punishment of just 15 years imprisonment.

"We found Lindsay Sandiford convincingly and legally guilty for importing narcotics ... and sentenced the defendant to death," Judge Amser Simanjuntak told Denpasar District Court.

Sandiford's lawyer said it was likely an appeal would be launched against the stiff sentence, which came despite the prosecution noting she had admitted her crime and behaved politely in court.

"We object to the sentence. We never expected that our client would get the death penalty," said Sandiford's lawyer, Esra Karokaro. "We will discuss it first with her, and most likely we will appeal."

Sandiford, who wore spectacles and had her hair tied back, hung her head low and cried as the verdict was read out, while her sister Hillary Parson, who attended the trial, also sobbed in court.

A British embassy representative who attended the hearing declined to comment.

Sandiford was arrested at Bali's international airport in May with 4.79kg of cocaine stashed inside her suitcase.

Police said she was the ringleader of a drug importation ring that involved three other Britons and an Indian, all of whom have also been arrested.

Sandiford argued that she was forced into transporting the drugs in order to protect her children, whose safety was at stake.

But the court rejected that argument and said there were "no mitigating circumstances" to allow for leniency.

"All evidence was incriminating against the defendant," said another judge on the panel, Bagus Komang Wijaya Adi.

The court said Sandiford had not actually admitted her crime and that she had undermined Indonesia's hard-line stance on drugs.

"Her action was against the government's effort to combat drug use in the country," Judge Amser Simanjuntak said.

British human rights charity Reprieve said last month that Sandiford "was exploited by drug traffickers, who targeted her because of her vulnerability and her fear for the safety of her children".

Two other Britons arrested in connection with the case received lighter sentences last month.

Rachel Dougall was sentenced to 12 months for failing to report Sandiford's crime, and Paul Beales received four years for possession of 3.6 grams of hashish but was cleared of drug trafficking.

A fourth Briton, Julian Ponder, is expected to hear his sentence at the end of the month after prosecutors recommended a seven-year jail term.

Indonesia enforces stiff penalties for drug trafficking, but death penalty sentences are typically commuted to long jail sentences.

Two members of an Australian drug-smuggling gang known as the "Bali Nine", who were arrested in 2005, are on death row, while the seven others face long jail terms.