Category Archives: Death penalty
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, 56, has lost her appeal over a UK Government refusal to fund her legal challenge against a death sentence imposed by an Indonesian court for drug smuggling.
Her lawyers attempted to challenge a High Court ruling that the Government was not legally obliged to pay for “an adequate lawyer” to represent her.
But today three senior judges headed by Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, dismissed her challenge in the Court of Appeal.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office refused to fund her case as a matter of Government policy.
She was sentenced to death by firing squad by a court in Bali for taking £1.6 million of cocaine on to the island.
In January, the UK High Court upheld the Government’s stance of not providing legal funding for British nationals arrested abroad, even in exceptional circumstances.
After the High Court gave its decision, Sandiford received a private donation of over £2,500 that enabled her to be represented by an Indonesian lawyer at the subsequent Bali appeal.
Having lost that first appeal, she is now in a race against time to raise money to take her case to Indonesia’s Supreme Court in Jakarta.
The appeal court heard today Sandiford needs about £8,000 to fight on.
The sum of £2,000 has already been found, but around £6,000 is still needed from the Government as money from private sources following publicity was “fully exhausted”, said lawyers for Sandiford, who is not entitled to legal aid in Indonesia.
Lord Dyson, sitting with two other judges, said the court had given “very careful consideration” to the issues raised in what he described as a “troubling” case.
He said the reasons for the judgment would be given “as soon as possible”.
Lord Dyson, when announcing the decision to dismiss the appeal, said it was “obviously a terribly serious matter”.
He said it was “most unfortunate” that the sum required to secure the representation sought by the appellant – roughly £6,000 – was “relatively speaking” a “very small sum indeed”.
The judge added: “But that cannot affect the principle that we have had to consider and it cannot affect our decision.
“But it may be that other means may be found to secure the relatively small sum in the course of the next few days.”
Rosa Curling, a solicitor with law firm Leigh Day, which is representing Sandiford, said outside court: “We are obviously very disappointed by the decision and we will consider with our client once we have received the reasoning of the court whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Balinese police said Sandiford was at the centre of a drugs-importing ring involving three other Britons, but she claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to protect her children whose safety was at stake.
She received the death sentence, despite prosecutors asking only for a 15-year jail term, after she was accused of damaging the image of Bali.
Aidan O’Neill, a Scottish QC, argued on Sandiford’s behalf that it was reasonable to expect the Foreign Office to provide funding and the case was of “overwhelming importance” because it involved the death penalty.
During a day-long appeal hearing, he submitted: “It also raises issues of significant public interest, concerning the extent to which fundamental rights protection can be claimed against the UK Government by UK nationals when abroad, and specifically in non-European countries.”
Mr O’Neill said it was “an exceptional case” involving importants points of European law.
The Government claim to have “a long-standing policy” not to provide funding was not true and it had in the past provided financial assistance, in exceptional circumstances, to prepare legal proceedings.
Mr O’Neill said an urgent decision was needed because an appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court had to be notified to that court by April 25, Thursday this week.
Defending the refusal to pay out, Martin Chamberlain QC, for the Foreign Secretary, said the non-funding policy was rational and lawful.
In any event, he argued, the Sandiford case “did not stand out from the crowd” when it came to similar cases – “I don’t think this case is exceptional”.
Before the 30-minute adjournment in which the court considered its decision, Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Patten, referred to the speed with which the court had had to deal with the issues raised because of the urgency of the case and said it was “terribly unsatisfactory”.
He indicated it could have been a case where there should have been a reference to the European Courts.
Today’s challenge was to the January 31 ruling by High Court judges Mrs Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Davies that the Government was legally entitled to adopt a blanket rule denying funding and it did not act irrationally or unlawfully in Sandiford’s case.
The British Government said it was disappointed when Sandiford lost her bid to block the sentence.
The FCO reiterated the UK’s opposition to the death penalty and said it had repeatedly made representations to the Indonesian government about the case.
Foreign Office lawyers say the Government opposes the death penalty and supports initiatives designed to encourage states in favour of it to “change their position”.
It also makes grants to charities such as Reprieve to assist individuals charged with capital offences and, in appropriate cases, to make state-to-state representations.
But the court was told that “it does not operate a legal aid scheme to cover legal expenses for British nationals involved in criminal proceedings abroad. Nor does it provide funds in exceptional cases.”
Reprieve’s Director, Clive Stafford Smith said: “Sometimes courts order politicians to do the right thing, and sometimes they don’t.
“Ultimately, though, it all comes down to the same thing: does David Cameron’s Big Society mean that Lindsay Sandiford has to face execution alone, or will the UK government ultimately recognise its duty to provide a very small amount of funding to help her have something as basic as a lawyer to stand at her side when a foreign country seeks her execution?”
Sandiford told those who have donated money towards her appeal that she has been humbled by the experience as she deals with “the ultimate emotional rollercoaster ride”.
She also said she is appealing “first and foremost” so she can meet her granddaughter, who was born in December.
In a message sent to supporters yesterday, she said: “I cannot thank you enough for your generosity and caring. I’ve always been an independent person and I hate not to be able to pay my way.
“So for me this is a very humbling experience having to rely on the kindness of strangers and am very deeply touched.
“I am trying to help myself. As you are probably aware the Government won’t assist despite pontificating that they are opposed to the death penalty.
“I knit and have just finished a piece that I’m hoping to auction to assist paying for my local lawyer and his assistants.
“They are really good people along with the enormous debt I owe to Reprieve for their support and simple caring.
“I know I have been difficult to deal with as the situation I am in leads to the ultimate emotional rollercoaster ride. They have been brilliant.”
She also thanked UK charity Prisoners Abroad for “quietly” supporting her with funds for drinking water and food.
“I will never be able to express the joy they gave to me,” she wrote. “The precious gift of a visit from my youngest son.
“Finally thank you to my family without whom I would have not had the will to carry on. The love I have received is beyond measure.
“I’m appealing first and foremost for someone I haven’t met but so very much want to and want to get to know. My granddaughter who was born on December 1 2012.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your caring.”
A state general assembly approved a measure to ban capital punishment, which would make the state the 18th in the US to do so.
Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is expected to sign the ban into law.
Supporters of the ban argue that capital punishment is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent.
Opponents say it is a necessary tool to punish those who commit the most serious crimes.
Maryland has five men on death row, though the measure makes it clear the governor can commute their sentences to life in prison. The state’s last execution took place in 2005.
Capital punishment has been on hold in Maryland since a December 2006 ruling by the state’s highest court that the lethal injection protocols were not properly approved by a legislative committee.
Maryland has a large Catholic population, and the church opposes the death penalty.
According to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website, Maryland has only executed five inmates since 1976.
In contrast, neighbouring Virginia has executed 110 inmates since the US Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.
However, Virginia’s death row population has dwindled to eight from a peak of 57 in 1995, in part because fewer death sentences are being handed down in the state amid an increased acceptance of life without parole as a reasonable alternative.
The centre said death sentences have declined by 75% and executions by 60% nationally since the 1990s.
The Government has been accused of breaching the “fundamental rights” of a British grandmother sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling by refusing to pay for legal representation as she battles for her life.
Two judges at London’s High Court are being asked to rule that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s failure to arrange “an adequate lawyer” for Lindsay Sandiford (above right), 56, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, is unlawful.
Sandiford, originally from Redcar, Teesside, was given the death penalty by a court in Bali last week for taking 10.6lb (4.8kg) of cocaine on to the island.
The sentence would see her shot by a firing squad.
She was accused by the court of damaging the image of Bali and received the sentence despite prosecutors only asking for a 15-year jail term.
The High Court was told that a notice of appeal was filed with Indonesian officials earlier this week and she was given a 14-day deadline to file grounds of appeal.
Aidan O’Neill QC said Sandiford was urgently in need of funding because she is currently without legal assistance and her family have exhausted all of their available resources.
Mr O’Neill said there was “no prospect” that competent counsel would be appointed to represent Sandiford on appeal without the Government providing some funding.
Sandiford would not have access to an adequate lawyer unless the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FC0) made arrangements, or provided funds to an expert non-governmental organisation such as Reprieve, which seeks to protect the interests of prisoners worldwide.
A competent lawyer had been found in Indonesia who was willing to waive fees and act pro bono, but required “operational costs” estimated at £2,500 to be met, said Mr O’Neill.
He told Mrs Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies that the FCO had unlawfully fettered its own discretion by applying a blanket ban on providing legal representation to British nationals overseas.
The refusal to assist Sandiford was a breach of Government obligations to take all reasonable steps to ensure that her “inviolable human dignity” was respected and protected.
Mr O’Neill said the Government was failing to protect her right to life – and not to face the death penalty – despite being required to do so by the European Convention on Human Rights.
There was also an obligation on the Government to ensure Sandiford had a fair trial and any penalty imposed on her was not disproportionate.
There was also a violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and a departure, without giving a good reason, from the Government’s own policy strategy for the abolition of the death penalty.
This included a commitment to provide adequate legal assistance in countries which retain the death penalty, said Mr O’Neill.
FCO lawyers are arguing that it is not unlawful or irrational under UK-EU law and human rights legislation for the Foreign Secretary to refuse to fund Sandiford’s appeal.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is working with Reprieve and representing Sandiford in court, is seeking a judicial review of the Government’s decision not to pay.
It argues Sandiford has not been properly represented since her arrest at Bali airport in May last year, when customs officers found drugs sewn into the lining of her suitcase.
Richard Stein, partner in the human rights team at the firm, said before today’s hearing: “The Government has a duty to ensure that the human rights of British citizens are protected and that those sentenced to death, or suspected of or charged with a crime for which capital punishment may be imposed, have adequate legal assistance at all stages of the proceedings.
“This judicial review will challenge the Government’s refusal to fund the £2,500 in expenses it would cost for a qualified Indonesian lawyer to represent Lindsay in her appeal against execution by firing squad which will take place on the beach in Bali if the Government do not act.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said that the Government does not fund legal representation for British nationals abroad, but Sandiford’s case was being raised through diplomatic channels.
A spokesman said: “We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time.”
A Scotsman released from prison after spending two decades on Ohio’s Death Row is heading back to prison.
Ken Richey was sentenced today to three years for threatening a judge who prosecuted his original case.
Richey pleaded guilty to a felony retaliation charge last month. He said he had been drinking heavily before he left a threatening phone message from his Mississippi home last New Year’s Eve.
Richey was on death row for 21 years after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a two-year-old girl in 1986.
A US court determined his lawyers mishandled the case, and he was set free in 2008 under a plea deal.
Investigators said Richey was at his home when he left the threatening message for Judge Randall Basinger, warning that he was coming to get him. Richey later said he had been drinking heavily and was depressed and that he regretted making the call.
Mr Basinger was an assistant prosecutor in the 1980s when Richey was accused of starting the fire.
Richey was sentenced to death and spent 21 years on Death Row. He denied any involvement in the fire and became well known in Britain, where there is no death penalty, as he fought for his release. Among his supporters were several members of the British Parliament and the late pope John Paul II.
Following years of appeals, a federal court determined that his lawyers mishandled the case, and his conviction was overturned. Richey was released in 2008 under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter.
He also was ordered to stay away from anyone involved in the case, including Mr Basinger.
Richey carried a lifetime of bitterness over his conviction, his friends said.
He returned to Scotland in 2008 and later came back to the US, where he was arrested in Minnesota in 2010 and charged with assaulting his 24-year-old son. The charge was dropped after he was brought back to Ohio on the charge of threatening the judge.