Trans-national crime is becoming more prevalent and investigations and prosecutions which have an international aspect are becoming more common. The result of this is that a greater number of Commonwealth prosecutions are reliant on assistance from foreign law enforcement authorities or could be greatly supported by that assistance.
Often matters that have an international aspect are also sensitive or significant cases. For example, terrorist cases, people smuggling cases and sexual servitude cases often have an international dimension. The international aspect of this work is an important part of the practice of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The CDPP is involved in two main categories of international work: Extradition and Mutual Assistance. Extradition and Mutual Assistance are essentially international systems that allow cooperation between governments in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters. Australia participates in those systems through the International Crime Cooperation Central Authority (ICCCA), which is part of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
The CDPP’s international work is coordinated in the International Assistance and Specialist Agencies Practice Group.
The Attorney-General’s Department has sole responsibility for international extradition for all countries except New Zealand. The CDPP’s role in extradition is confined to requesting that extradition be sought in Commonwealth matters and the execution of incoming requests from New Zealand.
In the case of outgoing extradition requests, we prepare documents in support of requests for extradition in serious cases where a person is wanted for prosecution for an offence against Commonwealth law or to serve a sentence of imprisonment, and is found to be in a foreign country.
Extradition is a specialist area of the law. Documents submitted in support of an extradition request must meet the requirements of the Extradition Act 1988 and the relevant treaty. Given the widely differing legal systems throughout the world, the provision of these documents, both in support of outgoing and incoming requests, requires specialist expertise.
Some extradition cases may take a number of years to reach finality.
Mutual assistance is the formal process by which countries provide assistance to each other to investigate and prosecute criminal offences and to recover the proceeds of crime. The formal mutual assistance regime relies on a network of international relations and obligations, together with the willingness of participating countries to assist each other in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters.
This international network is underpinned by a number of international treaties. Australia has ratified 30 bilateral treaties and multilateral conventions which assist the mutual assistance process. Australia also has a number of important bilateral relationships with non-treaty countries based on the principle of reciprocity. Countries provide assistance on the understanding that they will receive similar assistance in return, if requested.
The mutual assistance regime in Australia is governed by the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987. The International Crime Cooperation Central Authority (‘ICCCA’) is responsible for mutual assistance matters in Australia. The International Assistance and Specialist Agencies Practice Group is responsible for liaising with the ICCCA about these matters.
The formal mutual assistance regime runs parallel with a less formal system of international cooperation between investigating agencies. The formal mutual assistance channel is commonly used when a request for assistance requires the use of coercive powers in the requested country, or when the material requested is required in a form that may be admissible in criminal proceedings.
The main types of assistance provided under the mutual assistance regime involve the use of coercive powers and include:
- taking evidence from witnesses for use in foreign criminal proceedings;
- executing search warrants and notices to produce material; and
- locating, restraining and recovering proceeds of crime.
The CDPP is responsible for drafting mutual assistance requests to foreign countries to support Australian criminal proceedings for federal offences where charges have been laid against the alleged offender.