UK Government sued over failure to help death row grandmother Lindsay Sandiford

January 28, 2013

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Lindsay Sandiford, who was last week sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia, is suing the Foreign Office over its failure to support her appeal against her death sentence – in breach of its obligations to her as a British Citizen.

Ms Sandiford, a 56-year-old grandmother from Teeside, was arrested on drugs charges in May 2012, having been coerced into carrying a suitcase into the country by criminals who threatened her family. Last week a panel of judges at the district court in Desapar, Bali, sentenced Ms Sandiford to death.

Having exhausted her family’s finances to pay for a trial lawyer, Ms Sandiford now has no money to pay for an appeal – which involves filing a complicated legal document in Indonesian, a language she does not speak, by the 12th February.

Legal action charity Reprieve, along with solicitors Leigh Day & Co, has filed a judicial review on Ms Sandiford’s behalf against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which argues that:

“In failing to make arrangements for an adequate lawyer to represent the Claimant’s interests the Defendant is acting unlawfully, in breach of its obligations as a matter of EU law, to take all reasonable steps to ensure that she (a) does not face the death penalty, (b) is not subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, (c) is not tortured and (d) receives a fair trial.”

Ms Sandiford was unrepresented at various points throughout her ordeal and although her family eventually raised the money to pay for a trial lawyer he did not speak English and had no capital trial experience. Ms Sandiford is relying on charitable donations to afford even the most basic of provisions like food and water. Ms Sandiford was sentenced to death despite the fact that the prosecution sought a 15 year sentence.  Two of her co-defendants were given a 1 year sentence and a 4 year sentence. One co-defendant is expected to be sentenced at the end of the month.

A judge must now decide whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have breached their obligations and must provide Ms Sandiford with adequate legal representation.

Harriet McCulloch, investigator at Reprieve, said: “Everyone knows that capital punishment means that those without the capital get the punishment. Lindsay’s poverty means that she has ended up sentenced to death after a manifestly unfair trial. In November the FCO spent £10,000 restuffing a stuffed snake called Albert.  The costs of Lindsay’s pro bono lawyer would amount to a fraction of that. The FCO must take immediate action and ensure that she does not lose the chance to appeal her death sentence.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell [AT] reprieve.org.uk

2. A copy of the judicial review document is available on request.  Further information on Lindsay Sandiford’s case can be found at: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/Lindsay_Sandiford_Indonesia/