Defence Force officer charged with assault of female sailor

Elizabeth Broderick ... found that 74 per cent of female and 30 per cent of male cadets had been sexually harassed at the officer training institution.
Elizabeth Broderick ... found that 74 per cent of female and 30 per cent of male cadets had been sexually harassed at the officer training institution.

A SENIOR Defence Force officer is to be court-martialled in Canberra this month on assault charges believed to stem from a spanking incident involving a female sailor.

The Department of Defence has declined to comment on the details of the assault but when asked whether an officer was being court-martialled for spanking a female sailor a spokesman confirmed that ''a male officer has been charged with assault against a serving female sailor on board a major fleet unit'' last year.

The spokesman said a court martial was scheduled for November 29 in Canberra.

Defence declined to confirm this allegation, saying that ''as this matter is to appear before a court martial, no details will be disclosed at this time''.

The trial is expected to run for two to three weeks. Court-martial hearings are open unless the president of the court martial or the judge advocate rules to close the court. Findings are made in open court at the end of the trial.

The revelations come two weeks after the release of a report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, on sexual misconduct at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

Her inquiry was commissioned by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, in April following an incident at the academy in which a male cadet allegedly filmed himself having sex with a female colleague and broadcast it via Skype.

Ms Broderick found that 74 per cent of female and 30 per cent of male cadets had been sexually harassed at the officer training institution.

Her report said while most women at the academy found their experience positive overall, there was ''widespread, low-level sexual harassment, inadequate levels of supervision … and cumbersome complaints processes''.

Mr Smith will soon receive the report of the law firm DLA Piper, which is reviewing allegations of abuse that the minister's office received after the sex-Skyping incident was publicised.

DLA Piper says it has more than 1000 claims of misconduct. ''With many of the matters we have sufficient information to report to the minister and the secretary without needing to gather any more information'', the firm said. ''However for some matters we have asked for more information.''