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Plea over Bali death penalty funds

A challenge against the Government's refusal to pay for legal representation for a British grandmother facing the death penalty in Indonesia reaches the UK's highest court today.

Supreme Court justices in London are being asked to rule in an appeal by Lindsay Sandiford, who was convicted of trafficking drugs into the resort island of Bali, on whether a policy not to provide legal funding to those facing capital charges abroad is lawful.

Sandiford, 57, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, has previously lost High Court and Court of Appeal challenges against the policy.

In April last year, three appeal judges in London ruled that the UK Government's policy of not providing funding for legal representation to any British national who faces criminal proceedings abroad - even in death penalty cases - was not unlawful.

That decision will be under the spotlight before five Supreme Court justices in London during a hearing expected to last a day.

The Court of Appeal's decision followed an earlier High Court ruling that the Government was not legally obliged to pay for "an adequate lawyer" to represent Sandiford, who was sentenced to death by firing squad after being found with cocaine worth an estimated £1.6 million as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, in May 2012.

Appeal judges heard at the time of the hearing before them last year that she needed around £8,000 for her legal fight against the death sentence - following those proceedings she received donations covering the sum needed.

The Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, referring to the donations, said it may be that "the appellant no longer has an interest in the outcome of the appeal", but added: "The appeal raises points which have implications for other UK nationals facing the death penalty abroad."

Lord Dyson said the question was not whether the Foreign Secretary could produce a different policy "which many would regard as fairer and more reasonable and humane than the present policy", but whether the policy he had produced was "irrational".

He concluded: "I am in no doubt that the policy is not irrational. It is based on reasoning which is coherent and which is neither arbitrary nor perverse."

Sandiford, originally from Redcar, Teesside - who claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to protect her children, whose safety was at stake - was sentenced to death in January 2013 by judges of the District Court of Denpasar in Bali.

She then appealed against conviction and sentence but her case was rejected by the High Court of Denpasar.

Last August, a three-judge panel at the Indonesian Supreme Court in Jakarta also rejected her appeal.

She is currently waiting to apply for clemency.

Maya Foa, death penalty director of human rights campaign group Reprieve, said: "Lindsay was only sentenced to death because she didn't have funding for an adequate lawyer.

"Her co-defendants, all of whom had competent lawyers and funds at their disposal, received sentences of one to seven years. Lindsay, who had neither, was sentenced to death.

"British nationals who find themselves facing a death sentence in Indonesia also find themselves at a disadvantage compared to other European nationals whose home governments provide assistance.

"Had Lindsay been Dutch, Austrian, Swedish or German, she would have been represented by well-respected local counsel - and very likely have avoided a death sentence in the first place.

"The Indonesian government also takes this position - admirably, they provide legal assistance for their nationals facing a death sentence overseas, from Florida to Saudi Arabia.

"Indonesia stands firmly at the side of its citizens overseas and expects that European governments, with significantly more funds at their disposal, will do the same."

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