Sunday, April 17, 2011

Smith, ADA say abuse liability is possible

Smith, ADA say abuse liability is possible

Complaints of physical and sexual abuse in the military will be investigated says Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

The Australia Defence Association (ADA) agrees with the Defence Minister that the Commonwealth may be legally liable for physical and sexual abuse in the military.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith's office has received hundreds of complaints from people who claim they have suffered physical and sexual abuse in the military, dating back decades.

The complaints follow wide publicity about the treatment of an 18-year-old female cadet at Canberra's Australian Defence Force Academy who had a sexual encounter with a male cadet transmitted to others via the internet without her knowledge.

A string of inquiries have been set up in response to the scandal, which has prompted others to raise allegations of abuse.

Mr Smith says the Commonwealth may be legally liable and he has promised all of the allegations will be investigated.

ADA executive director Neil James agrees with Mr Smith.

"He is probably right to the extent that they could be liable. But obviously each allegation will have to be checked out," he said.

"They'll have to check whether they have already been investigated or been the subject of previous inquiries."

Mr James says it will be difficult to prove many of the allegations.

"The trouble is a lot of the allegations are old, some are clearly exaggerated, some are the result of peoples' personal views and not necessarily the facts, some could even be false memory syndrome," he said.

But he also says the investigations will be far-reaching.

"Well they should go back as far as you can satisfactorily investigate the inquiry in terms of known facts and the availability of documents and witnesses," he said.

"Trying to rely just on peoples' memories as we know from other inquiries say into child sex abuse are exceptionally difficult to do."

On Saturday it emerged that South Australian police were investigating an allegation of serious sexual assault of a recruit at the former HMAS Leeuwin in Western Australia in 1971.

Allegations have also emerged of systemic bullying and bastardisation, sometimes bordering on sexual assault at the Defence Force Academy.

Defence said it was also investigating personnel who allegedly set up a Facebook hate page to vilify serving gay members of the Defence Force.