BALI – Lindsay June Sandiford wept in court today as a judge in Indonesia sentenced her to death for smuggling drugs into the country.
Her lawyers have argued she is suffering from mental health problems and that she had been used as a mule by organized traffickers.
A judge on the Indonesian island of Bali, said June Sandiford, a 56-year-old woman, originally from Teeside, had cared little for the ramifications of her actions and that she had damaged the island’s reputation as a tourist idyl.
According to a report from the Associated Press, prosecutors had initially sought a relatively modest punishment of 15 years in jail, after she was convicted of smuggling around £1.6m of cocaine. But the panel hearing the case said there was no mitigation and that the British woman had undermined the Indonesian government’s efforts to combat drug trafficking.
“We found no reason to lighten her sentence,” said Amser Simanjuntak, who headed the judicial panel hearing her case at the Denpasar District Court.
Ms Sandiford wept as the court announced its verdict and refused to speak to reporters as she was led back to a cell.
Ms Sandiford, one of around 40 foreigners on death row in Indonesia, where laws against drug trafficking are very tough, was arrested last May after police in Bali said they found 10.6lb of cocaine in the lining of her suitcase when she arrived on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok. In her witness statement to the court, she claimed she had been targeted by a criminal gang who had threatened her children if she did not cooperate with them.
“I would like to begin by apologising to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement,” she said. “I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them.”
Ms Sandiford was allegedly part of a ring involving three other Britons. A verdict is expected in the trial of her alleged accomplice, Julian Anthony Pounder, tomorrow. He is accused of receiving the drugs in Bali, which is known to have a busy drugs scene despite the efforts of authorities.
Last year, Paul Beales was sentenced to four years for possession of drugs and Rachel Dougall was jailed for one year for failing to report a crime. Meanwhile, a case against Julian Ponder, who comes from Brighton and who is accused of possessing drugs, is still continuing. It is said that he collected drugs from Ms Sandiford.
At an earlier hearing, Ms Sandiford’s defence lawyer told the court that her history of mental health problems made her a vulnerable target for criminal gangs. The London-based charity Reprieve, is among those groups who have claimed the Briton was deliberately targeted by criminals.
“Lindsay was targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children,” the group’s spokeswoman, Harriet McCulloch, said last week. “Following her arrest, she was interrogated by the Indonesian police without a translator, legal representation or the assistance of the British Embassy for 10 days.”
In addition to the 40 foreigners on death row, around 75 Indonesians are facing the same fate. According to Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes. There have been no executions in the country since 2008, when 10 people were put to death.
Today, the British Foreign Office said in a statement: “We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in Indonesia. We remain in close contact with that national and continue to provide consular assistance. The UK remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.”