Drug Policy

Indonesian Court Sentences British Grandmother to Death For Drug Smuggling

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An Indonesian court has sentenced a British grandmother to death after she was found guilty of smuggling 11lbs of cocaine into the island of Bali.

Prosecutors had been pushing for a 15-year prison term, but judges handed down the death penalty, saying that Lindsay Sandiford expressed little concern over the consequences of her actions. Sandiford's lawyer has said that the court did not consider the fact that she was forced into smuggling the cocaine under threat of violence to her family.

According to British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, Sandiford still has a few appeal options left within the Indonesian judicial system. After the appeals are exhausted there is the possibility that Sandiford could be pardoned by Indonesia's president, who has pardoned four drug dealers on death row since 2004.

Indonesia has some of the strictest drug laws in the world, and Sandiford is only the latest foreign national to have received the death penalty or a long prison sentence for drug offenses. No doubt the strict sentences are in place to reduce the number of people using and selling drugs. However, even with these draconian sentences there has not been a significant reduction of drug use in Indonesia, as I noted back in March. An official from Bali's Customs and Excise Agency justified the harsh sentence saying:

The main reason is because narcotics can massively endanger the young and, thus, whoever is caught with drugs should be severely punished. If three people can consume one gram of cocaine, then this operation has potentially saved up to 14,000 lives, 

What is stunning is that there is an example of legislation that does reduce the use of "hard drugs" without requiring that the state kill people. The Portuguese have decriminalized all drugs, and the results have been encouraging. It is a shame it is taking so long for Indonesian authorities to realize that executing grandmothers might not be the best way to reduce drug consumption.