Aussies In Jail Overseas

Aussies In Jail Overseas

Today, we’re going to look at Aussies abroad that have been in foreign prisons. Ozzies Abroad cover the statistics of Aussies in jail overseas and we cover some facts and what to do if you find yourself caught behind bars.

Why does the thought of being in jail overseas conjure up nightmarish visions of crowded cells and nobody to turn to for help? Well, that’s because those nightmarish visions are pretty much true. Its is important that Australians traveling or living outside of Australia are familiar with local laws. In other countries the penalties for committing crimes might seem a bit steep to Australian people, so we must keep our wits about us when abroad.

Ozzies Abroad takes a look at Aussies in jail overseas.

The Statistics

Each and every year about 1000 Australians are arrested and according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade there are over 550 Australians overseas awaiting trial for more serious crimes, over 250 are in prison and a whopping 170 of these charges are related to drugs.

Aussies In Jail Overseas

I’ve personally been arrested twice, once for alleged drunken disorderly behavior in Cuba (I was innocent, I swear), the police kept me in a cell for 3 hours and I gave them $50 to let me go. It wasn’t too bad actually but not advised. The other time was in Auckland and also related to alcohol, the problem was that I couldn’t find a public toilet…you get the point.

However, more serious crimes come with some pretty damn serious penalties. Since 1980, almost 100 Aussies have been charged with crimes that attracted the death penalty and six Aussies have actually been executed. The largest number of arrests are in the US, followed by Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

Other crimes besides drug trafficking include stealing commercial secrets, receiving bribes, murder, falsifying news, sodomy, arson, vandalism, weapons possession and dealing, embezzlement, circulation of Christian literature, robbery, indecent assault and espionage.

The Sentenced

Here are a few interesting facts about some Aussies arrested, jailed and sometimes executed overseas.

  • Schapelle Corby was arrested in Bali for trafficking cannabis in October 2004. She was sentenced to 20 years but served close to 10 years before she was released.

Aussies In Jail Overseas

  • In 2006, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death in Indonesia and were both executed by firing squad in 2015. They were found guilty of heroine trafficking.
  • Laslo Toth was arrested in Italy for vandalizing Michelangelo’s Pieta statue and served 3 years in jail.
  • Tallaal Adrey was arrested in Kuwait for weapons possession and trading and sentenced to four years. He was released in 2009.
  • In the last 20 years Kevin Barlow, Brian Chambers, and Michael McAuliffe were all executed in Malaysia by hanging. Wan Tuong Nguyan met the same fate in Singapore 2005. They were all found guilty of heroine trafficking.
  • Recently, Adelaide woman Cassandra Sainsbury has been receiving media attention. The 22-year old was arrested in Colombia for being a cocaine mule.

So, as you can see, the laws can vary from country to country. Sometimes, Australians may consider the punishment a bit harsh.

The Jails

They suck big time. In many Asian countries you may have the pleasure of sharing a tiny cell with up to 50 other prisoners and no room to lie down. Personal hygiene becomes a distant memory and meals are an insect invested rice bowl with a bit of cabbage. Punishments in jail can be beatings, shackles and long stretches in solitary confinement. Another thing to consider is the legal system in other countries, you will need to bribe people for simple legal and case filings. Basically in many cases your health, sanity and freedoms will be replaced with disease, mental illness and smelly confined crowded cells. Sounds really good but I’ll be passing on that travel experience.

Aussies In Jail Overseas

China might be the worst place to be in prison but their prisons are so secretive that nobody knows for sure. USA is rough, you’ve seen the documentaries on TV. In South America there are more drugs inside jail than out, you pay for everything with money including your cell and the guards are running the racket.

The Help

When we leave our shores we must abide by the laws of the new country. The Australian government and the Consular staff don’t have that much power out of the jurisdiction commonly known as Australia. In other words, you’re in another country and playing by a different set of laws.

Aussies In Jail Overseas is a handy link from Australian government and has everything related to Australians traveling overseas. Through this site the Australian government states:

“When Australians travel abroad, they leave behind Australia’s support systems……there may be limitations to what can be done and you should have realistic expectations about this”.

Then there is a list of what the government can and can’t do.

Basically, the government can visit you, raise health concerns (raising concerns doesn’t mean getting treatment), give you information on visitor procedures, help you access your own money and inform you of your telephone rights. In very rare circumstances the government will lend you money.

The list of what the government cannot due is a longer and more potent list. In summary, the government cannot get you out of jail, conduct investigations, provide legal advice, pay your lawyers fees, interfere in the judiciary process, seek special treatment for you and they cannot provide an interpreter.

So, you’re pretty much on your own.

The two following sayings come to mind: “You better get yourself a lawyer son! You better get yourself a real good one”, the other “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.

Marching Powder

Read about Rusty Young, an Australian journalist that spent time in a South American Prison. It’s an Ozzies Abroad recommendation.

There You Have It

The only advice we have is to be aware that the Australian government can’t do much. Don’t let the carefree adventure of travel and living among other cultures dim your wits. Be smart because its a jungle out there. Hope you enjoyed the article and as always get vocal in the comments section below.

See Ya Later!


8 Replies to “Aussies In Jail Overseas”

  1. What a great post. I think Australians, especially younger ones, head off on adventures overseas without thinking through the risks. It seems like every other day there is an article in the papers about an Australian being caught up in a legal system very dissimilar to our own. Other than the regular drug running ones, I think there has been an increase in ones having scooter/motorcycle accidents without helmets and killing a mate or partner, as they seem to have increased in media attention this year.

    1. Thanks Megan. What can I say? We can be a rowdy lot. We recommend travel insurance when hiring a scooter. 

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thanks for this eye-opener, Dave.

    Am not an Aussie but so much of what you said here applies to anyone leaving their country and navigating their way around foreign lands.

    As you mentioned, the bottom line is to do some research and then to just obey the laws of the country.

    And if that info re the prisons doesn’t frighten us, nothing will.

    Thanks for a very helpful article.

  3. Great article – I cycled across Europe for 9 months and I was surprised at how many Aussies I met travelling. Of course there are always mistaken charges, but I would imagine that Aussies picked up for cocaine or heroin related charges are involved with those drugs. Is there good rehab treatment in Australia? I know from my own niche, which is cannabis, that Australia is way behind in terms of legalization.

    1. Hi Dr Doug. Yes there are Australian absolutely everywhere overseas, check out this article for some statistics Where do Aussies go abroad? Yes, Australia has great rehab clinics and programs. As far as legalization is concerned, Australia is a massive pot smoking country. People don’t get in trouble for having their own stash but if you have a few pounds, a pile of cash, lots of plastic baggies and some scales then you will go to jail. Maybe we will legalize recreational use one day.

  4. Crikey! What an eye opener. I can’t imagine anyone risking this fate for the sake of money. Freedom is much more important than the dollar.
    Even so, it would appear that many are stupid enough to risk everything, including their lives.
    What really shook me was that two men were executed by firing squad just a couple of year ago. Surely those that take these risk must know the facts. Or is it because they think they will never get caught.
    Hopefully, those thinking of breaking the laws of another country, will take a look at this post first! Great blog!

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