THE federal government is considering tightening the rules for a taxpayer-funded legal support scheme for Australians arrested overseas, after an accused paedophile accessed the program.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has called on his department to review the Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme and consider if persons accused of sexual offences should be barred.
Australian Peter Scully, who's accused of raping and trafficking two girls in the Philippines, may have been accessing the scheme since his arrest in 2015.
"I had already asked my department for information on the scheme, including this particular case, with a view to considering changes to the scheme, so that persons in circumstances similar to Mr Scully, or those with histories of sexual offending and relevant convictions, would no longer be eligible," Mr Porter told News Corp Australia.
Mr Porter also said the decision to grant Scully access was made by his predecessor George Brandis.
Access to the Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme is granted by the Attorney-General's Department if a person has been arrested overseas and faces a 20-year jail term or the death penalty.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said while known criminal histories must be taken into account the scheme should continue.
"In this particular case the attorney-general will be looking at the specific circumstances," Ms Bishop told ABC radio on Tuesday.
"But the scheme, I believe, should continue to exist because Australians who may be innocent get caught up in serious criminal matters overseas."
Scully is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl before strangling her and burying her body in a grave under a house he was renting in the southern Philippines city of Surigao.
Police and prosecutors wept, according to a Fairfax report, when they viewed one video called Daisy's Destruction that Scully allegedly sold on the internet showing an 18-month-old girl being sexually assaulted while being tied upside down by the legs.
The girl was later found alive but suffers lasting physical and mental injuries.
Scully has also been accused of repeatedly raping two teenage girls who were found naked and chained in his apartment bedroom in the port town of Cagayan de Oro in 2014.
He's pleaded not guilty to five counts of rape and one of human trafficking.
Scully fled to the Philippines from Melbourne in 2011 after being charged with fraud.
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