British grandmother sentenced to death by firing squad

January 22, 2013

Image of hands hanging out of a prison cell

A British grandmother arrested on drugs charges in Indonesia has today been sentenced to death by firing squad.

Lindsay Sandiford, a 56 year old grandmother from Teeside, was arrested earlier this year. In a judgement handed down today a panel of judges sentenced Ms Sandiford to death despite the fact that the prosecution sought only a 15 year sentence.

Lindsay only agreed to carry the suitcase following months of threats made against her family. In May she finally agreed to travel to Thailand where, convinced her son would be in danger from criminal gangs if she refused, she agreed to carry a suitcase to Bali, Indonesia. She was too scared to tell anyone, including her partner, what was happening to her until she was arrested on her arrival in Bali, after which she cooperated fully with the police.

In an expert report submitted to the District Court in Denpasar, Bali, Dr Jennifer Fleetwood concluded that Ms Sandiford’s vulnerability will have made her an ideal target for drugs traffickers, noting 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.”

Harriet McCulloch, Investigator at Reprieve, 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 king pin – 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 cooperated 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. Lindsay must file an appeal within the next 14 days and it is vital that the British Government do everything possible to support Lindsay’s appeal against the death sentence.”

ENDS   Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell or Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell [AT] / clemency.wells [AT] or see

2.  Further information on Dr Fleetwood’s testimony can be found here:

3. Lindsay Sandiford is a British national who was facing three charges for drugs offences in Indonesia, two of which carry the death penalty. Lindsay had never been in trouble with the police before, but in March 2012, convinced her son would be in danger from criminal gangs if she refused, she agreed to carry a suitcase from Bangkok to Bali, Indonesia.  She was stopped at the airport in Bali and taken for interrogation by customs officials. The Indonesian authorities failed to inform the British embassy that she had been arrested – in breach of their international obligations – and she was held for ten days before anyone knew what had happened.  Lindsay does not speak the local language and says that, during those ten days, she was not appointed either a lawyer or a translator, and was deprived of sleep and threatened by the authorities with a gun.   Since being transferred to police custody on May 28th 2012 Lindsay has had three different Indonesian lawyers, none of whom have provided her with effective legal assistance. The first lawyer appointed by the Indonesian police stole money from her and made no effort to investigate her case or represent her interests in police interrogations. She believes that he also bribed prison officials to get journalists into the prison and then tried to demand money from these journalists for access to Lindsay.

On October 4th Lindsay appeared in court without a lawyer. Her trial commenced and the indictment was read out. She faces three charges, two of which carry the death penalty. Lindsay was also unrepresented at the next hearing because she was unable to find a lawyer to assist her pro bono.

Lindsay is currently represented but her lawyer does not have the resources to properly investigate the case and to uncover the evidence that could save Lindsay’s life.

4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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