The Government has been accused of breaching the "fundamental rights" of a British grandmother sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling by refusing to pay for legal representation as she battles for her life.

Two judges at London's High Court are being asked to rule that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's failure to arrange "an adequate lawyer" for Lindsay Sandiford, 56, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, is unlawful.

Sandiford, originally from Redcar, Teesside, was given the death penalty by a court in Bali last week for taking 10.6lb (4.8kg) of cocaine on to the island. The sentence would see her shot by a firing squad. She received the sentence despite prosecutors only asking for a 15-year jail term.

The High Court was told that a notice of appeal was filed with Indonesian officials earlier this week and she was given a 14-day deadline to file grounds of appeal.

Aidan O'Neill QC said Sandiford was urgently in need of funding because she is currently without legal assistance and her family have exhausted all of their available resources. Mr O'Neill said there was "no prospect" that competent counsel would be appointed without the Government providing some funding.

Sandiford would not have access to an adequate lawyer unless the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) made arrangements, or provided funds to an expert non-governmental organisation such as Reprieve, which seeks to protect the interests of prisoners worldwide.

A competent lawyer had been found in Indonesia who was willing to waive fees and act pro bono, but required "operational costs" estimated at £2,500 to be met, said Mr O'Neill.

He told Mrs Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies that the FCO had unlawfully fettered its own discretion by applying a blanket ban on providing legal representation to British nationals overseas.

The refusal to assist Sandiford was a breach of Government obligations to take all reasonable steps to ensure that her "inviolable human dignity" was respected and protected, he said. Mr O'Neill said the Government was failing to protect her right to life and not to face the death penalty.

He said there was also an obligation on the Government to ensure Sandiford had a fair trial and any penalty was not disproportionate. And he claimed there was a violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and a departure from the Government's own policy strategy for the abolition of the death penalty.