Bullying, bashings, naked romps and acts of indecency - just another day in the military court of the Australian Defence Force.

The outcomes of the ADF Superior Service Tribunal proceedings for 2020 paint a disturbing pattern of cases across all three military services, including some which have inflicted life-changing physical and mental injuries.

The court martial results have seen troops stripped of rank, fined and dismissed for offences that in some cases in a civilian court may well have attracted more significant penalties and jail time.

Corporal Brendan Storer arrives at the Defence Force Magistrates Court in Canberra ahead of his sentencing proceedings. Picture: Craig Dunlop
Corporal Brendan Storer arrives at the Defence Force Magistrates Court in Canberra ahead of his sentencing proceedings. Picture: Craig Dunlop

In one case, a hazing initiation ritual saw a young soldier kidnapped and cable-tied then chased into the night by men barking like dogs, while in another a soldier had to skol a drink or be given a "kick to the testicles".

That soldier who wouldn't skol was kicked so hard by RAAF corporal Brendan Storer, doctors considered having to remove one testicle. Instead he endured multiple medical procedures to change nerves.

"The injury has been life-changing," the court declared in finding the corporal guilty and sentencing him to a demotion and 40 days in a military jail.

In another case, an Australian Defence Force Academy officer cadet Daniel Igoe filmed a threesome sex act with a female and male colleague only to share the explicit looping video with others on Snapchat. He was spared jail but was booted out of the ADF.

Captain William Michael Howieson, 29, was accused of exposing his erect penis to a female captain in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Supplied
Captain William Michael Howieson, 29, was accused of exposing his erect penis to a female captain in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Supplied

Captain William Howieson, on a posting to Papua New Guinea, was charged with prejudicial conduct after telling a local female captain he had been ordered to provide a semen sample and asking her to help, while Army Major Kane Dalton faked papers and dressed to pretend he was a Lieutenant Colonel.

RAAF Flight Officer Rebecca Gabriela Hall was able to serve in the military for three years before it was discovered she had used a maiden name to enter the service, despite five years earlier being deemed unfit to join due to a medical condition when she applied under her married name. She was found guilty and escaped imprisonment but was still dismissed from service.

 

Deakin University Law School professor and recognised military law expert Matthew Groves said the military justice system had long been dogged by Constitutional doubts, culminating in the 2009 declaration as such by the High Court.

But since then legislative design reforms and greater transparency have led to a settling in the debate over operations and existence.

Soren Rea has been dismissed from the defence force after being found guilty of committing acts of indecency without consent. Picture: Supplied/Facebook
Soren Rea has been dismissed from the defence force after being found guilty of committing acts of indecency without consent. Picture: Supplied/Facebook

"Part of the paradox of all of this is that there are some things that are treated more severely in the military system and others that are not," Professor Groves said.

"In one sense it is like every profession, if you are a doctor and give drugs of dependence to somebody you know has a problem that is a strike-off offence because wrongly prescribing is a big thing, but if you write a dud cheque as a doctor people would say you shouldn't do that … every profession has its own quirks and deals with things differently and like the old (military) saying 'things are different in every walk of life but in the military they are very, very different'."

Prof Groves said the community might consider being kicked out of a profession insufficient punishment but was devastating for a military person, from which some never recover.

He said some cases can go to civilian courts but how and who in Defence makes that decision is an "obscure" part of the system.

In the financial year to 2019, there were 1000 trials (Navy 162, Army 772 and Air Force 66) with Superior Tribunal trials (including court martials and Defence magistrate trials) accounting for an annual average of 30 hearings a year. Since March 2019 the military were prompted to publish cases publicly for transparency and general deterrence.


Originally published as ADF cases reveal culture of bullying, abuse


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