Peter Dutton has supported calls for an end to Aussie taxpayers having to fund an accused paedophile’s legal bills – while Julie Bishop has urged caution, insisting people are seen as “innocent until proven guilty”.
Taxpayers have paid around half a million dollars in legal costs for Peter Scully – who is on trial in the Philippines for charges relating to murder, human trafficking, rape and torture – allowing him to fight his charges in Asia, the Australian previously reported.
He has benefited from the Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme that supports Australians on trial in foreign countries. Despite the horrific accusations against him, legal funding has given Scully $500,000 to cover his legal costs.
Attorney-General Christian Porter told Starts at 60 the funding for Scully’s case was approved under his predecessor George Brandis and that he had asked his team to look at the matter.
Now, Home Affairs Minister Dutton has supported Porter, and told 2GB radio: “I think you’re seeing a fresh approach from Christian Porter. He’s not only got a smart mind but he’s got a great nose for these sorts of issues.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Bishop agreed she was concerned about taxpayers funding legal bills for accused sex offenders, but told ABC Radio “it would depend very much on what was known about their history, about whether they’ve got a history of convictions or offending”.
She does believe however that the scheme is good for a lot of Aussies abroad, who are seen as innocent until proven guilty, and she added: “Our legal system assumes that people are innocent until proven guilty and clearly there are circumstances where support is absolutely appropriate.”
It comes after the Attorney-General said that changes would be made to the scheme to meet community expectations, particularly when overseas cases involve child sex offenders.
Scully, a former businessman from Melbourne, fled Australia in 2011 is believed to have been receiving taxpayer funding since he was arrested three years ago. Police in the Philippines allege that Scully produced child pornography and sold it online for as much as $10,000 per video.
He is believed to have assaulted and murdered a 12-year-old girl, while another of his alleged victims was just 18 months old at the time of assault. He’s also wanted in Australia for a series of fraud charges.
He is contesting the 75 charges against him, which has forced his alleged victims to testify against Scully in court.
Scully isn’t the only Australian criminal to benefit from the Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme. Between 2016 and 2017, more than $1.1 million was paid out, with the likes of drug smugglers Cassie Sainsbury and Schapelle Corby receiving funding at one point in time, according to The Australian.