Supreme Court requires urgent review of death penalty legal funding policy.

16.07.14 | |

The Supreme Court has today unanimously decided that the Foreign Secretary must urgently review his policy not to provide funding for legal representation for a British national facing the death penalty abroad. The Foreign Secretary must consider whether to make an exception from that policy, by providing funding to the appellant, Mrs Sandiford. The outcome of that review, the Supreme Court have said, must be supported by a clear justification. 

 

Adam Straw acted for Lindsay Sandiford, led by Aidan O'Neill QC and instructed by Richard Stein and Rosa Curling from Leigh Day. 

 

Mrs Sandiford is a 58 year old British national who suffers from mental illness and who has been sentenced to execution by firing squad in Indonesia for importing drugs. 

 

The Foreign Secretary previously operated a policy to provide funding for legal representation to British nationals facing capital charges abroad in exceptional cases. However, in about 2007 that policy was changed, and a new policy was introduced under which funding would never be granted for legal representation. Mrs Sandiford originally needed only £2,500 to cover the expenses of a pro bono lawyer, and as she could not find the money elsewhere, asked the respondent to provide it. He refused and the appellant challenged that refusal by judicial review. 

 

Although the respondent's original decision was upheld, the Supreme Court drew attention to information that had come to light since the appellant made her judicial review claim. In particular, the Court said that transcripts of the judgments against Mrs Sandiford in Indonesia "make very disturbing reading". They "raise the most serious issues as to the functioning of the local judicial system... the local courts appeared to have ignored the substantial mitigating factors in her case, including her age and mental problems, her lack of any previous record, her co-operation with the police, and not least the remarkable disparity of her sentence with those of the members of the syndicate whom she helped to bring to justice." The Court noted that, despite the Foreign Secretary's purported policy never to provide funding, in fact the respondent considered whether to depart from that policy in Mrs Sandiford's case. Logic and consistency would require him to review the policy and decide whether to provide Mrs Sandiford legal funding in light of the new information.

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