Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smith fury at 'insensitive' defence chiefs, as teenager in sex scandal faces new hearing By Ben Packham

 Defence Minister Stephen Smith is demanding answers from defence chiefs after a teenage officer cadet who was secretly filmed while having sex was hauled before a disciplinary hearing today over past allegations of being absent without leave and drinking.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith

 Mr Smith said holding the unrelated hearing while the woman was distressed over the sex scandal was “inappropriate, insensitive or completely stupid”, and has asked for the charges to be quashed.
 The 18-year-old Australian Defence Force Academy cadet spoke out last night after allegedly being filmed by webcam having consensual sex with a male cadet while six men watched in another room.
 Mr Smith said the cadet had pleaded guilty to the unrelated defence disciplinary charges.
 But under the circumstances, Mr Smith said the outcome was “almost certainly faulty in law”.
 “On her own admission, she is in a deeply distressed state,” he told Sky News.
 “It is in either the realm of inappropriate, insensitive or completely stupid to hold such a hearing on a day like today.”
 Mr Smith said he had asked for an explanation from Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
 “It was news to him as it was news to me when this came to light,” he said.
 He said he particularly wanted to know to know if ADFA commandant Bruce Kafer had known about the disciplinary hearing, which had been scheduled some time ago.
 The charges related to an incident in March.
 Earlier, Mr Smith said the Australian Defence Force would not tolerate conduct that was sexist, vilified women or was indecent or uncivilised.
 He also revealed he had questioned initial advice from the Australian Federal Police that the alleged broadcasting via Skype of an 18-year-old woman having consensual sex without her knowledge did not breach any laws.
 He said the woman should be treated with civility and dignity and receive all available assistance from the ADF.
 Mr Smith said trust was crucial in the ADF, and there was no place in the organisation for those who broke it.
 “I can't think, in the allegations and the circumstances which have been outlined ... of a greater betrayal of trust of a colleague in the workplace, than the suggestions that have been made,” he said.
 “And once that trust is destroyed, it is very difficult if not impossible for the person who has broken that trust to remain a defence force member.”
 Mr Smith admitted the woman - who says she has been shunned at the Canberra military college for making the scandal public - could face disciplinary action in the future for breaking fraternisation rules and taking her complaints to the media.
 But he said they were “tenth order issues” when compared to the allegations against the male cadets.
 In a statement, Defence said the Australian Federal Police initially advised no law had been broken.
 “Defence referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (ACT Policing) who advised that in the ACT, unlike other jurisdictions, distribution of material depicting consensual sex is not specifically illegal even if that distribution did not have the consent of both parties,” Defence said.
 “Consequently the matter was initially referred back to Defence for investigation.”
 Mr Smith said he was sceptical when he saw that advice over the weekend.
 “I queried that and said `I've long been a lapsed lawyer but I'm not confident that is right',” he said.
 Later advice from the AFP said an offence may have occurred under Commonwealth laws. A person who secretly filmed an individual engaging in consensual intercourse “may possibly be charged” under the ACT Crimes Act, or under a section of the Commonwealth Criminal Code relating to telecommunications offences.
 Mr Smith also issued a general warning about the use of digital technologies such as Facebook and Skype, saying they made apparently private conduct public.
 The young woman, known has Kate, told the Ten Network last night: “You see it on the TV and you read it in the papers that these things happen but until it happens to you, you don't actually believe that these things happen.”
 She said she wanted to continue with her military career, although she has been unable to interact freely with her fellow cadets since the incident.
 Opposition spokesman David Johnston said the woman at the centre of the scandal must be protected and should not face disciplinary action.


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