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Scheme for overseas criminal matters involving the death penalty

The Attorney-General's Department may help Australians facing criminal charges involving the death penalty in an overseas country with the cost of their defence.

Applications can be made to the department for grants to cover legal fees and other expenses. The department will not, generally, cover the cost of any legal fees or expenses incurred before an application is made.

On 2 July 2018, the Attorney-General announced changes to the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012:

The changes include replacing the serious overseas criminal matters scheme with the scheme for overseas criminal matters involving the death penalty. The scheme for overseas criminal matters involving the death penalty excludes cases where a person is facing imprisonment of 20 years or more (such cases were previously included in the serious overseas criminal matters scheme). Such a person may be eligible for funding by the Commonwealth under the revised special circumstances scheme.

Eligibility

Assistance is only available where the accused person is at risk of being punished by the death penalty.

Assistance will not generally be granted to people who:

  • can meet the cost without incurring serious financial difficulty
  • are eligible for legal assistance in the overseas country
  • do not have a continuing connection with Australia.

Special considerations

From 2 July 2018, the following considerations must be taken into account by the decision maker when considering applications:

  • whether the applicant has been the subject of criminal proceedings in Australia or overseas, and – if so – the gravity, nature and outcome of those proceedings
  • if the person is overseas, the circumstances under which they departed Australia.

Applicants must provide the application form with:

  • a downloaded completed National Police Check application form 
  • if applicable, an overseas penal clearance certificate (also known as an overseas police check) from each country in which the applicant has resided for 12 months or more in the previous 10 years and/or ever been charged with a criminal offence.

More information about obtaining required overseas penal certificates is available on page one of the application form. Country-specific information is also available from the Department of Home Affairs website.

Further information about the special considerations is available on page 21 of the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012.

Decision maker

From 2 July 2018, the Attorney-General is the decision maker for overseas criminal matter applications under both the scheme for overseas criminal matters involving the death penalty and the revised special circumstances scheme.

How to apply

Download an application form and a National Police Check application form and email the completed copies to finass@ag.gov.au with the required attachments, including any overseas police check penal certificates if applicable.

If you cannot send your application by email, contact the Financial Assistance Section.

Assessment timeframe

Complete applications will be assessed within 28 days. Incomplete applications will not be assessed. You will be notified if your application is incomplete.

Assessment of costs

Monetary limits apply to certain disbursements. More information is available in the department's cost assessment policy:

Consular assistance

Information about consular assistance can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

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