Australia — Defence comment on the Director of Military Prosecutions’s decision

On 12 Feb­ru­ary 2009, the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group under­took a com­pound clear­ance in Uruz­gan province, Afghanistan. The mat­ter has been inves­ti­gat­ed by the Aus­tralian Defence Force Inves­tiga­tive Ser­vice and was referred to the Direc­tor of Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tions for con­sid­er­a­tion of charges.

The Direc­tor of Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tions has decid­ed that three Aus­tralian Defence Force mem­bers who con­tin­ue to serve in the Army will be charged in rela­tion to this incident. 

One accused per­son has been charged with fail­ing to com­ply with a law­ful gen­er­al order and, in the alter­na­tive, prej­u­di­cial con­duct. A sec­ond accused per­son has been charged with manslaugh­ter and, in the alter­na­tive, dan­ger­ous con­duct, and an addi­tion­al charge of dan­ger­ous con­duct. Charges against a third mem­ber, who is cur­rent­ly over­seas trav­el­ling in a per­son­al capac­i­ty, will be pre­ferred when the indi­vid­ual returns to Australia.

The Direc­tor of Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tions is an inde­pen­dent pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al author­i­ty for the Aus­tralian Defence Force and was appoint­ed as a statu­to­ry office hold­er under the Defence Force Dis­ci­pline Act 1982.

The Direc­tor of Mil­i­tary Prosecutions’s deci­sions are made out­side the chain of com­mand in order to remove any sug­ges­tion of com­mand influ­ence, and are made in accor­dance with pub­lished guide­lines for the insti­tu­tion of prosecutions.

The mat­ters will be heard before one or more Ser­vice Tri­bunals that will be con­vened in due course. It is antic­i­pat­ed that the tri­al process will not com­mence until ear­ly 2011.

“Con­sis­tent with the pre­sump­tion of inno­cence, these mem­bers will receive the full sup­port of the Aus­tralian Defence Force,” the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Mar­shal Angus Hous­ton, said.

The mem­bers will receive sup­port ser­vices includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to med­ical, psy­cho­log­i­cal, legal, chap­lain­cy and wel­fare support. 

“I give the mem­bers fac­ing these charges a firm, per­son­al under­tak­ing that I will ensure that they are thor­ough­ly sup­port­ed through­out the legal process,” the Chief of Army, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Ken Gille­spie, said.

In most cir­cum­stances Aus­tralian Defence Force mem­bers must gain per­mis­sion before mak­ing pub­lic state­ments. In this instance, the mem­bers fac­ing charges are per­mit­ted to make any pub­lic state­ments they deem nec­es­sary upon advice of their legal rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This per­mis­sion does not extend to oth­er mem­bers of the Aus­tralian Defence Force who might have an inter­est in these proceedings.

Defence will not engage in any com­men­tary about the mer­its of the case. 

Media con­tact: Defence Media Liai­son: (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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