When you leave Australia, you also leave behind your rights under Australian law.
This fact is unfortunately ignored by the body of opinion sweeping the country which insists Australia should "do more" to help Australians facing criminal charges abroad.
The recent headlines about Sydney model Michelle Leslie's arrest in Bali on drug charges adds another distressing chapter to a growing caseload of Australians facing criminal prosecutions in foreign countries.
Schapelle Corby, the detention of David Hicks and the Bali Nine have all focused media and public attention on the issue, but little has been said or done to ensure young Australians travelling overseas fully understand the consequences of facing trial abroad.
All travellers, and especially young people, need to appreciate that the Australian legal system cannot protect them once they leave home. While an Australian facing trial in another country is entitled to access to an Australian embassy or consulate services, they cannot expect to be whisked home to face trial under Australia's legal system.
They are on their own, facing the justice system of the country in which they were arrested.
The Australian Government will not intervene in the judicial process of other countries, and nor should it. We would not entertain foreign governments trying to interfere with criminal cases for foreign nationals arrested here.
Prime Minister John Howard spelled this out in a radio interview in June when he said, in response to a question on the Corby case: "Some people have not allowed for the fact that if a foreigner were tried in an Australian court, we would deeply resent the leadership of that person's country of origin, seeking to interfere in our legal system."
Do our young people travelling overseas know or understand this fact? Our high schools do much to prepare students for life in the real world. Given the ease of international travel, and its popularity among young people, the perils of foreign travel should be part of the school curriculum.
Lesson one is that Australians abroad have no special privileges. An Australian charged with a crime overseas can't just call their Australian lawyer to fly out and defend them, unless the lawyer is admitted to practice in that foreign jurisdiction. But an Australian defence lawyer can act as a liaison between the defendant's family and Australian government agencies, and seek witnesses or evidence within Australia.
The Corby case has highlighted the pitfalls of Australian lawyers interfacing with foreign colleagues whose cultural, legal training and "personalities" can clash. What may seem a normal case approach to an Australian may not mesh with the foreign lawyer's strategy.
Perhaps the most important work an Australian defence lawyer can do for a client overseas is to pursue evidence and witnesses here. In the Corby case, the evidence providing the key to the defence is believed to be within Australia.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
14 posts so far.