The Lindsay Sandiford Debate

Lindsay Sandiford is a former legal secretary who is currently on death row in Indonesia. In 2013 she was sentenced to death after allegedly trying to smuggle £1.6million worth of cocaine into Indonesia – a nation renowned for its staunch stance on drugs. Sandiford claims she was coerced into carrying the drugs, doing so to protect her family. Many have called on the British Government to intervene – especially with time running out. In this article, we take a look at the case and ask – what does she deserve?


Sandiford was sentenced to death in 2013


Sandiford, 55 years old, arrived in Indonesia on a flight from Thailand in May 2012. During a routine luggage search, a stash of drugs were uncovered in her suitcase. She was hauled into criminal proceedings. Sandiford claimed she was coerced into carrying the drugs for a criminal gang that had threatened her son. She suggested her son was vulnerable, and had been targeted and threatened with death by a criminal gang led by Julian Ponder – a British antiques dealer. Sandiford took part in a sting operation to help bring the rest of the gang to justice. Despite coordinating with the investigation, she was sentenced to death by firing squad in January 2013. This sentence shocked many, and was condemned by the British Government. Most had expected her to receive a custodial sentence of fifteen years. She is currently residing at Kerobokan Prison.





Funds were raised to help Lindsay Sandiford’s legal fees – facilitating an appeal. Many supporters helped raise funds for her, believing her innocence. The United Kingdom’s Government refused to provide aid due to the minimal chance of having the sentence overturned. Her appeal at the Indonesian High Court was rejected. Sandiford then appealed to the Indonesian Supreme Court, but again the original verdict was upheld. The final level of appeal – a request for a Presedential pardon was also made. This leaves Sandiford still on death row, with her execution looming – but does she deserve it?


Yes: She Deserves the Death Penalty

  • Drugs ruin lives. By giving out a death penalty for this action, it sets a strong precedent, and protects many potential victims. Sandiford was attempting to smuggle in drugs that would’ve led to further crimes being created.
  • When handing down the sentence, judges stated Sandiford had ‘damaged’ Bali’s reputation as a tourist destination by attempting to smuggle in the drugs. Her effort to do so has led to Bali and Indonesia as a whole being brought negative publicity – affecting many people’s lives who depend on tourism.
  • Others have been sentenced to the death penalty for the same crime – there should be no special treatment afforded to her because of her circumstances.
  • Indonesia is renowned for having tough drug laws. She would have known the punishment facing her. ‘If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time’.
  • Any individual who visits another country needs to respect their laws – Lindsay Sandiford clearly didn’t. It could be argued she knew what she was getting herself into.
  • Sandiford appeared to show a lack of remorse for her actions during the original hearing.



No: She Doesn’t Deserve the Death Penalty

  • If Linday Sandiford was telling the truth, and she did the act to protect her son, then it could be argued the death penalty is excessive. Sandiford noted she didn’t see ‘any other alternative at the time’ to caving in to the gang’s demands, in order to save her son. She did what any loving mother would do.
  • A lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent stated during the court case that Sandiford was an ‘ideal target’ for drug traffickers – with lawyers suggesting she was ‘vulnerable’, and had a history of suffering from mental health problems.
  • There have been some suggestions that the British Government should intervene. Lindsay Sandiford hasn’t had the backing of her government, whose stance she suggests is ‘tantamount to condoning the death penalty’.
  • In general, many suggest the death penalty is wrong, and therefore this would mean Sandiford doesn’t deserve it.
  • How would tourists feel going to Indonesia when knowing that if they too become coerced into carrying drugs that they could face execution.
  • Sandiford was cooperative with Police during their investigations. She took part in a sting operation which helped catch other members of the gang. This usually leads to recognition in court.
  • Most had expected a custodial sentence to be handed out. This, given the circumstances of the case, would surely be fairer. Moreover, other members of the gang were handed lighter, custodial sentences, with the ringleader Julian Ponder handed a six-year sentence. The sentences don’t appear to be consistent.




This is a very complex case, with two clear sides of the argument. What is most worrying is that anyone can find themselves in a position where they are coerced into doing something that causes significant problems. Yet looking at the bigger picture, it is apparent that the drugs she was attempting to smuggle into the country would’ve done damage to many people. Overall, this case comes down to opinion, and with the days ticking by without any change, the execution is getting closer.

You can view Lindsay Sandiford’s story in her own words, at this link.





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