Staying on the Right Side of the Law while Travelling.

September 16, 2011

Relaxed, fun and worry free is how most people would describe what they want in an international vacation. Legal difficulties are usually the last thing on people’s mind when they travel, and little thought is generally given to the fact that activities, which may be considered normal or acceptable in their home country may cause huge legal headaches if engaged in overseas.

jailWhen considering the perils of foreign legal systems many think of extreme cases such as those in Indonesia, where courts have handed down the death penalty for drug smuggling, a crime which would only result in a jail sentence in Australia. Other more subtle pitfalls exist for the unwary tourist, however.

An Italian politician inadvertently created a media furore on his recent visit to Sweden with his family when they gathered at a restaurant to sample some classic Swedish cuisine. Unfortunately for the father, his 12-year-old son didn’t share his love for the Swedish fare, and ran for the door saying he wanted pizza instead. In an attempt to avert this embarrassing situation the father grabbed his son by the hair and kept him from leaving.

Apparently unbeknownst to the father Sweden has extremely strict anti-corporal punishment laws. After bystanders called the police the man was arrested and had to endure three nights in prison before the Stockholm District Court ruled the incident was minor in nature, given the fact the child had not been injured.

Other recent cases include tourists travelling in Middle Eastern countries where Westerners have been jailed for what would not be considered an illegal act in Australia (e.g. extra-marital relations).

These instances serve as illustrations to be careful when travelling, as matters, which may not be illegal in Australia can land the unwary traveller in significant trouble overseas.

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