Last edited: April 18, 2005

Victorian Jailed in Fiji ‘Denied Rights’

The Age, April 15, 2005

By Andrea Petrie, Matt Neal

The Government says it was notified of charges against a Warrnambool man only after his conviction.

A Victorian man convicted of gay sex offences in Fiji was denied legal advice because Fijian authorities did not notify the Australian consulate until after he was convicted, a Federal Government spokesman said yesterday.

Thomas Maxwell McCosker, 55, from Warrnambool, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years’ jail last week for having sex with a 23-year-old Fijian man, Dhirendra Nadan. The two had pleaded guilty to an “unnatural offence” and “indecent practice between males” at Lautoka High Court. Homosexual acts carry a maximum of 14 years’ jail in Fiji.

Magistrate Syed Mukhtar Shah described their crimes during sentencing as “something so disgusting that it would make any person vomit”.

The pair were bailed last Tuesday, pending an appeal hearing on April 28. But a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said yesterday that while Australians residing or visiting overseas were subject to the jurisdiction of the country they were in, McCosker had been unfairly treated.

“Our high commission in Fiji has formally expressed concern that it was not advised of his arrest, which meant he did not have access to consular assistance,” the spokesman said. “We are concerned that this may have prejudiced Mr McCosker’s rights in the trial, in particular his right to legal representation.”

Fijian police became aware of the pair’s activities after McCosker reported a theft of $1500. When police questioned Nandan in connection with the theft, he told them that the two had made pornographic photos and videos together between March 24 and April 3 to sell on the internet.

Iqbal Khan, a lawyer who has since been appointed to represent McCosker at his appeal, said the authorities had denied his client a basic human right. “The Fijian Government.. . should have contacted the high commissioner because he is an Australian citizen and so the embassy could give him legal assistance,” he said.

Mr Khan said despite this, his client was coping well. “He said he went through hell (but since the appeal) I have seen a marked improvement in him. He’s been able to speak to his mother and his friends in Australia.”

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convener Pete Dillon said yesterday he had written to 14 federal MPs to urge the Government to get involved in McCosker’s case as it had in the case of Gold Coast woman Schapelle Corby.

“They’re not doing anything to help this guy, who was probably unaware of the regulations in Fiji about homosexual acts in a private home, which are in clear breach of the United Nations Human Rights Charter,” he said.

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