Death penalty woman did not have 'adequate lawyer', UK court told
on 31/01/2013 12:37:00
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, 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 British 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 (€2,915) 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.