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Army officer to face trial with court martial for sexually assaulting female soldiers

admin | June 7, 2022
army-officer-to-face-trial-with-court-martial-for-sexually-assaulting-female-soldiers

An army officer accused of sexually assaulting two female soldiers following a social event at a military barracks in Dublin two years ago will go on trial before a general court martial in September. As the Irish Examiner reports, a sitting at the Military Justice Centre in McKee Barracks in Dublin on Tuesday heard the trial could potentially last up to two weeks. The accused — a commissioned officer in the Defence Forces who cannot be identified as a result of reporting restrictions imposed by military judge Colonel Michael Campion — is facing a total of 18 charges in relation to events which allegedly occurred at McKee Barracks, Blackhorse Avenue on June 25th, 2020. The soldier, a married man with children, was scheduled to enter pleas in relation to the charges, some of which are alternatives to civil law offences under the Defence Act 1954. At the start of the hearing, counsel for the accused, Feargal Kavanagh SC, signalled his client was ready to enter a plea in relation to six charges. They include three charges of assault under Section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, two charges of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline under the Defence Act 1954 and a single count of drunkenness under the same legislation. The assault charges relate to allegations the accused reached his arm around the back of one female soldier and put his hand on her head and pulled her towards him. The two other assault charges relate to the accused moving towards another female soldier in a manner which led her to believe an assault was going to take place and making physical contact with her without her consent. In relation to charges contrary to good order and discipline, the officer is accused of acting aggressively and telling two individuals to “f**k off” or words to that effect as well as using language unbecoming of an officer. Court martial However, the arraignment was deferred after Mr Kavanagh said the accused officer would be “taking a certain course” in relation to the remaining charges. They include two counts of sexually assaulting two female soldiers under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 on the same occasion at McKee Barracks. Judge Campion said the board of a general court martial would be required to hear the arraignment of charges that would proceed to trial. The officer is facing a trial before a general court martial — a rarely-used form of military court reserved for the most serious offences and/or offences involving senior-ranking officers. Most offences involving Defence Forces personnel result in a summary court martial where an accused party only appears before a military judge. A general court martial consists of a military judge presiding over a court-martial board composed of at least five members of the Defence Forces who act as a jury. As the accused is a commissioned officer, the board must also be composed of commissioned officers, with at least one member holding the rank of colonel. Findings of fact by the court-martial board require a two-thirds majority, while the military judge rules on any matter of law and will also determine the sentence, if any, to be imposed. Sentences up to and including life imprisonment can be imposed by a general court martial, although the maximum jail sentence in the current case is five years. The accused, who attended the hearing on Tuesday, spoke only to confirm his name, rank and number. Mr Kavanagh told Judge Campion that a legal issue was likely to arise following the arraignment, which could take several days before any trial could start. The military judge adjourned the case until early September for an arraignment hearing and to allow relevant parties to be put on notice about the schedule for the subsequent trial that was expected to follow. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

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