Bali: Sara Connor faces some difficult dilemmas in the days and weeks ahead in Bali’s notorious Kerobokan jail.
Her four-year sentence for the fatal group assault of Bali police officer Wayan Sudarsa on August 17 last year, while only half as long as prosecutors demanded, is still a far cry from the resounding not guilty verdict she long appeared to expect.
The Byron Bay woman’s intuition would surely be to appeal the sentence in the High Court – her lawyers have indicated they will advise her to do just that – but there is a catch.
Appeals are unpredictable beasts in Indonesia.
Should Connor choose to appeal there is a risk higher courts will impose a tougher sentence.
Four of the Bali Nine heroin smugglers infamously – and unexpectedly – had their life sentences overturned in the Supreme Court and the death sentence imposed as a result of appeals.
Connor’s legal team has just seven days to make this dicey decision, although it is highly possible it will be taken out of her hands.
Prosecutors also have seven days to appeal and it is standard practice to do so when the sentence is less than two thirds of that requested by prosecutors.
But this is not Connor’s only agonising decision. In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media in early January, Connor, 46, revealed that despite desperately missing her two sons, aged nine and 11, she did not want them to come to Bali.
“I don’t think it is a good idea to see your mother behind bars,” she said at the time.
Now, staring down the barrel of more than three years behind bars (her sentence is minus the seven months she has already been incarcerated) she will no doubt be desperate to see her boys, whom she loves “more than anything”.
In one of 78 testimonials presented to the Denpasar District Court, Connor’s sister-in-law, Maree Westhoff, wrote about Connor’s sons staying with her, while their father and Connor’s ex-husband Anthony “Twig” Connor, went to Bali to support their mum.
“One night, whilst we were watching TV (one of the boys) turned to me and said: ‘Auntie Maree, while you were out (my brother) and I went upstairs and said some prayers for God to protect mum and bring her home’,” Ms Westhoff wrote.
“Twig” Connor was not in a state to talk after the sentencing on Monday night.
But Mary Lockton, with whom Connor once shared a flat in London, said in a statement that friends and family were devastated by the verdict. “She has pleaded her innocence from the very beginning and we had been hoping that she would have been acquitted of all charges,” Ms Lockton said.
“The whole trial has been traumatic for the family, especially Sara’s two boys. At least we have certainty now.”
Connor’s brother David was in court for the verdict, as was her loyal friend Ambra Bertoldi, who has steadfastly attended her court appearances in Bali and constantly brought her food, including tiramisu on her birthday.
Connor rushed out of the courtroom after the sentence and hid behind her trademark fan as prisoners were loaded into a prison van to be transported back to Kerobokan jail. David Taylor relieved by sentence
Her reaction was in stark contrast to that of her boyfriend, British DJ David Taylor, who appeared relieved when judges sentenced him to six years’ jail for the fatal group assault of Mr Sudarsa.
This is a light punishment given the maximum sentence for fatal group assault is 12 years’ jail in Indonesia and Taylor’s violence caused the death of an on-duty police officer.
“I accept the charges. Thank you,” he told the panel of judges.
Outside the court his father John Taylor, a minister, gave a dignified response, his voice cracking only when he spoke of his debt to “many who have stood by us, prayed for us and supported us through this time, particularly new friends here in Bali, who we know will continue to support and visit our son through the years ahead.”
“At the end we are content with the sentence,” John Taylor said.
The family was “immensely saddened” by the tragic events of that night on Legian Beach and “our hearts go out to the widow of Officer Sudarsa and to his family to whom we send our deepest condolences”.
“However,” John Taylor said firmly, “we do believe our son David feared for his own life that night and his actions reflect that.”
Taylor was candid during the trial about bashing Mr Sudarsa; first with the officer’s own binoculars, then a mobile phone, and finally a Bintang beer bottle – which smashed upon impact – but said he did so in self-defence.
However both he and Connor insisted that her role was only to try to break up the fight. It was an argument the judges did not buy. Connor’s defence fails
Judge Wayan Sukanila said Connor was not trying to separate Taylor and Mr Sudarsa when she sat on top of the police officer but was trying to help Taylor and prevent the victim from fighting back.
He was equally sceptical about her claims that she cut up Mr Sudarsa’s cards in order to protect him from identity theft, saying she instead acted out of guilt.
Connor was ultimately given a lesser sentence than Taylor despite prosecutors requesting parity on the grounds Connor had given “convoluted statements” to the court and did not admit her guilt.
The judges took into her account that her two sons “still needed her very much” and she was separated from their father. They also said she was polite during the trial, had no criminal record in Indonesia and had offered to make a donation to Mr Sudarsa’s widow, even though it was refused.
In a dramatic courtroom scene last December, Mr Sudarsa’s widow Ketut Arsini rebuffed Connor’s offer of a donation of 25 million rupiah (about $2500), saying “I don’t want a dime”.
When Fairfax Media told Ms Arsini of Taylor’s verdict, she held back tears and with a shaky voice said: “What can I say, if that’s the best, I can’t say anything.”
“I don’t know the law, I don’t know legal matters, it’s up to the prosecutor, the law if that’s what’s been decided, then I can’t really say anything,” the elementary school teacher said.
Later she was more composed. When hearing of Connor’s verdict she said she trusted the legal system.
“If it’s four years, then it’s the maximum she deserved,” she said.
Ms Arsini said she was content that the fact her husband was a police officer on duty had been taken into consideration by the judges.
However she disputed Connor and Taylor’s claims that Mr Sudarsa had attacked them first. “I don’t believe that, my late husband was a friendly person. He wouldn’t attack them.”
Taylor and Connor will also be eligible for remissions granted to prisoners in Indonesia on national holidays such as Christmas and Independence Day on August 17 – ironically the date Mr Sudarsa was killed.
– With Amilia Rosa
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