Death Row Briton Loses Funding Bid

lindsaysandiford

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.”

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