British drug courier seeks lighter sentence

by Ni Komang Erviani on 2013-01-08

Grief: Lindsay Sandiford sobs as her translator conveys her words to the judges during the trial on Monday. BD/Agung ParameswaraGrief: Lindsay Sandiford sobs as her translator conveys her words to the judges during the trial on Monday. BD/Agung Parameswara

Briton Lindsay June Sandiford, 59, lodged a defense plea with the Denpasar District Court on Monday morning, asking for a more lenient punishment.

Sandiford is currently facing a possible 15-year jail term for her alleged attempt to smuggle 4.7 kilograms of cocaine into the resort island.

Through her lawyer Esra Karo Karo, Sandiford appealed for a lighter sentence. “We appeal to the panel of judges to give our client a lighter sentence considering our client’s background, condition and the situation that caused her to be involved in this criminal act,” Esra stated, reading out the defense plea in front of the panel of judges presided over by Amzer Simanjuntak.

Sandiford was arrested by customs and excise officers at Ngurah Rai International Airport on suspicion of smuggling cocaine worth approximately Rp 23 billion (US$2.4 million). The officers found the 4.7 kg of cocaine hidden in her suitcase lining after she landed from Bangkok.

After the arrest of Sandiford, in cooperation with customs and excise officers, the police carried out further investigations based on Sandiford’s confession.

The police used Sandiford as bait to trap other suspects, and finally arrested Paul Beales. Along with Beales, police also arrested two other Britons, Julian Ponder and his partner Rachel Dougall, and an Indian national Nanda Gopal.
All the suspects were alleged to be part of an international drug ring.

Beales had been sentenced to four years imprisonment, Nanda Gopal received five years and Dougall, the woman dubbed the Bali Drug Queen by the British media for her lavish lifestyle and alleged commanding role in the smuggling attempt, was sentenced to one year imprisonment.

During the trial, Esra detailed some facts that had been revealed in the previous series of trials for consideration by the judges as possible mitigating factors to reduce Sandiford’s possible period of imprisonment. One of the facts was the mental problems suffered by Sandiford since childhood.

“She has been diagnosed with depression and treated with a course of medication,” Esra said.

A letter was obtained from Sandiford’s former doctor at Crescent Bakery Surgery, a doctors’ surgery in Cheltenham, UK.

Esra also revealed an official letter from Dr. Jennifer Fleetwood PhD, a criminologist from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.

Through the letter, Fleetwood, who wrote a thesis titled “Women in the International Cocaine Trade”, conveyed her opinion that Sandiford was the victim of coercion resulting in her attempt to bring drugs from Bangkok to Bali.

“It appears from the materials that I have reviewed that Lindsay Sandiford does not appear to have sought help from any of her close friends. This is again extremely typical behavior, as couriers are often too scared and ashamed of their participation in the drugs trade to tell anyone what they are doing, even their own families and closest of friends,” Fleetwood states in her letter.

Esra also hoped that the judges would consider that Sandiford had never committed any crimes in her own country, proven by the National Policing Improvement Agency in London.

The mother of two, Esra added, was forced to take part in this act as she had received threats from the syndicate. “She also regrets her wrongdoing,” Esra emphasized.

During the trial, Sandiford, who was dressed in a white shirt, also submitted her own written defense plea to the judges. She said that she actually wanted to read the defense plea herself, but she was disturbed by the flashes from the many photographers attending the trial.

The public prosecutor will read out his statement on Wednesday next week.

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