THE British Government has condemned a decision to impose the death sentence on a North-East woman convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia.
Lindsay Sandiford, originally from Redcar, is to face a firing squad after being convicted of smuggling 4.8kg of cocaine into Bali.
Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire told the Commons today (Tueaday, January 22) that the Government 'strongly objected' to the death penalty being imposed on Sandiford, who was arrested last May after police found £1.6m worth of drugs in the lining of her suitcase during a routine customs check.
As the death sentence was imposed on her this morning (Tuesday) there was shock in Denpasar District Court.
Even the prosecution had not sought the death penalty, instead asking for a 15-year prison term.
The 56-year-old housewife wept as judges handed down the sentence and refused to speak to reporters on her way back to prison, covering her face with a scarf.
She had previously claimed in court that she was forced into taking the drugs into the country by gangsters who were threatening to hurt one of her children.
Her defence lawyers said she had a history of mental health problems which made her a vulnerable target for criminal gangs.
Delivering the sentence, a panel headed by Judge Amser Simanjuntak concluded that Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourist destination and weakened the Government’s anti-drugs programme.
Three other Britons were arrested at the same time as her in a sting operation. Paul Beales was jailed for four years last year for possession of drugs, Rachel Dougall jailed for one year for failing to report a crime and Julian Ponder, who received the drugs from Sandiford, is due for sentence tomorrow (Wednesday).
Sandiford's lawyers said that they will appeal within the 14-day limit - arguing that it was most unusual that the judges would overrule the prosecutor's recommended sentence.
Mr Swire told the Commons: "We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time."
Mr Swire said repeated representations had been made to the Indonesian authorities and Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP, William Hague, had raised the case with his counterpart in the country.
He added: "We understand that under Indonesian law, Lindsay has at least two further avenues of appeal through the courts as well as an opportunity to apply for presidential clemency should these be unsuccessful."
Harriet McCulloch, investigator at human rights charity Reprieve, which is helping Sandiford, said: “She is clearly not a drug kingpin – she has no money to pay for a lawyer, for the travel costs of defence witnesses or even for essentials like food and water.”
Amnesty International said death by firing squad for a non-lethal crime was “cruel in the extreme”.
There have been no executions in Indonesia since 2008. However, more than a 100 people remain under sentence of death, they said.