Lindsay Sandiford is a controversial figure that has divided opinion around the world. Sandiford is currently on death row in Indonesia, having been sentenced to death in 2013 after smuggling around £1.6million worth of cocaine into Indonesia – a nation renowned for its strong stance against drugs.

On the face of it, this seems a simple case where a foreign national tried to traffic drugs into a country to sell and make money. But Sandiford has claimed she was coerced into carrying the drugs to protect her family. This makes it a very delicate and difficult case. We take a look at both sides of the argument in this article.


Lindsay Sandiford was arrested after attempting to smuggle £1.6million worth of cocaine into Indonesia. Indonesia is renowned for its zero-tolerance approach to drugs, as evidenced by its past executions for drug offences. But because of this approach, for those who are able to smuggle it in, it can be highly lucrative.

Sandiford was sentenced to death as a result. Since 2013, she has been held in prison and is awaiting her execution date. Sandiford, who is a grandmother in her 60s, claims that she was coerced into carrying the drugs with her, and that she did so to protect her family.

Sandiford, who previously worked as a legal secretary, claimed that a criminal gang – led by a British antique dealer Julian Ponder – had forced her into smuggling the drugs, having threatened Sandiford’s son, who was considered to be a vulnerable person.

Sandiford cooperated with the local Police, and even took part in a sting operation which resulted in bringing many members of the criminal gang to justice. As a result, it caused widespread shock when Sandiford was sentenced to death by firing squad.

The British government condemned this sentence, but have only ever offered limited support. Funds were raised by well-wishers to support Sandiford’s legal fees. But an appeal that was lodged was rejected by the Indonesian High Court.

Sandiford appealed to the Indonesian Supreme Court, but the original verdict was once again upheld. Sandiford attempted the final appeal – a Presidential pardon – but was again denied. Sandiford has now exhausted all appeals, and her death sentence remains.

Her plight has gained international headlines. The British Government have been urged to step in to help Sandiford, though others suggest she is purely getting what she deserves.

Arguments to suggest Lindsay Sandiford deserves the Death Penalty

There are several arguments that support the argument that Lindsay Sandiford deserves the death penalty.

  • Drugs ruin lives. By having the death penalty as a punishment for this crime, it sets a strong deterrent, and protects many potential victims. If the drugs had been smuggled in, they would have resulted in further arrests, more crime, and hurt and misery for many who would go on to become addicts.
  • When handing down the sentence, the judges stated that Sandiford had “damaged” Indonesia’s reputation as a tourist destination. This entire case has led to negative publicity for Indonesia. Tourism is one of the country’s main sources of income, and many civilians rely on it.
  • Others have been sentenced to death for the same crime. Some have argued that the British government should step in – but does the fact she is British mean she is “better” or “worth more” than any other human? No. It simply wouldn’t be fair to afford Sandiford special treatment.
  • There is the old saying “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”. Indonesia is well-known for its strict anti-drug laws. Sandiford would have been well aware of the potential punishment for her actions, but went ahead and did so.
  • There is also a case here of the “slippery slope” argument. If Indonesia were to commute her sentence, or take the death penalty off of the table, it could be perceived as a sign of weakness that could encourage more crime.

Arguments to suggest Lindsay Sandiford does not deserve the Death Penalty

While the arguments listed above present one side of the argument, there are many arguments that disagree with the assertion that Lindsay Sandiford deserves the death penalty.

  • Lindsay Sandiford has stated that she attempted to smuggle drugs into Indonesia to protect her son. If this is true, then most loving mothers would be in a similar position if put into this situation. Sandiford has said she didn’t see any other alternative at the time, as she wanted to protect her son. If this is true, surely the death penalty is excessive.
  • Sandiford fully cooperated with the Police investigation. She even put herself in danger by partaking in a sting operation at the behest of the Police. Based on this, and how she did everything she could once caught to help the Police, this punishment seems severe.
  • Sandiford could reasonably suggest that the British government has neglected her. Recently, the British government have only allowed the extradition of criminals to the United States if they receive assurances that they will not face execution. Based on this, it is fair to assert that the United Kingdom is against capital punishment. Therefore, should they not intervene here and warn Indonesia of [poptential economic or trade consequences unless Sandiford’s life is spared?
  • Various academics have suggested that someone like Sandiford, who has a history of psychiatric problems and is generally vulnerable, would be the “ideal target” for drug traffickers. This would suggest that Sandiford was targeted by the ruthless gang due to her vulnerability and perceived weakness.
  • In general, Sandiford’s sentence does not appear consistent with those received by her co-conspirators. For instance, Julian Ponder – alleged gang mastermind – received a 6 year sentence. Especially given that Sandiford assisted investigators, this sentence seems unduly harsh.

The Takeaway

This is a very complex case, with two clear sides of the argument. What is arguably most worrying is just how easy it is for someone to be coerced into doing something that causes many problems.

Overall, this is one of those debates that will boil down to personal opinion. But it seems Indonesia have made up their mind. Cast your own vote below and see how our other readers have reacted.

Does Lindsay Sandiford deserve the Death Penalty?