New South Wales mother of two Sara Connor is on tenterhooks now that the Denpasar Prosecutions Office has announced it will lodge an appeal against her prison sentence, arguing it is manifestly inadequate.
Ms Connor was sentenced to four years in prison, after being found guilty of a fatal assault on Balinese policeman Wayan Sudarsa. Her British boyfriend, David Taylor, was tried separately and sentenced to six years.
Indonesian legal experts have described both punishments as lenient by local standards, given that a police officer was killed. Prosecutors are seeking that both Ms Connor and Mr Taylor are sentenced to at least eight years behind bars. The maximum penalty for a fatal group assault is 12 years.
Indonesian legal procedure
Prosecutors will generally seek an appeal when a defendant’s sentence is significantly less than originally requested, or when it is less than two-thirds of the maximum. They had asked for eight years prison time for both Taylor and Connor.
After the sentences were delivered, all parties had one week – until March 27, to lodge their appeals. Mr Taylor’s lawyers made it immediately clear they would not appeal, while Ms Connor’s legal team said it would consider that course of action.
However, the prosecution has advised that an appeal is imminent.
“Our superior believes that since David and Sara were charged with the same crime and in the same capacity they should also serve the same time,” a spokesperson for the prosecution remarked. “It is about a sense of fairness. That is why we are appealing.”
Appeal can result in a tougher sentence
Just like appeals to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, Indonesian appeals courts have the power to impose harsher sentences than those handed down by the lower courts; regardless of which party lodges the appeal. Four members of the Bali nine had their drug trafficking sentences increased to the death penalty on appeal, while convicted cannabis smuggler Schapelle Corby had her 15-year sentence increased to the original 20-year term when that was appealed.
During Ms Connor’s original sentencing hearing, the Indonesian judges rejected her claims that she was merely trying to intervene in the fight between the policeman and her partner, and that she left the altercation to look for her missing handbag without knowing the officer was injured.
However, they took into account Ms Connor’s lack of a prior criminal record and the fact she is the primary carer for her two sons in Australia. They also considered her respectful demeanour during the trial and her offer of a donation to Mr Sudara’s widow – an offer which was rejected by the distraught family.
The appeal will be in the form of written submissions, which will be considered by a panel of judges. Connor will not appear in court and the matter could take up to two months to finalise.