Driving offences and assaults are the most commons reasons why Manawatu's Defence Force personnel find themselves in court, newly released figures show.
Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show that in the past two years, from July 1, 2012, to April 30, 2014, three personnel from Linton have been dismissed from service for "acting or failing to act in a manner that was likely to prejudice service discipline, driving offences and for acting against civil law".
Linton Military Camp has the highest number of military personnel in a single location in New Zealand, with almost 1800 regular force members.
A lieutenant charged with injuring with reckless disregard and a staff sergeant charged with using threatening language and striking an officer of lower rank, faced courts martial, and were both found guilty.
They were both given stays of seniority, and the lieutenant fined and reprimanded.
During that time, 340 internal complaints were laid, and 64 offences were referred to court, more than half of them relating to driving, at 35, followed by assault or violation, 20. Of those, 19 cases are still pending.
Included in the internal offences were charges of avoidance of duty, failing to comply with written orders, and absences without leave.
Such charges are dealt with under the Armed Forces Discipline Act, and penalties included fines, rank reduction, forfeiture of pay and confinement to barracks.
At Ohakea, the workplace of almost 700 personnel, one person, a leading aircraftsman, was discharged following driving offences.
Six internal complaints were laid and eight offences, for driving, assault and alcohol or drugs, went through to civilian courts.
Linton Military Camp commander Colonel Nick Gillard said the number of charges was a concern, and he would like them to be much lower. "We would view any charge concerning violence or any issue very seriously; we have a low tolerance for these offences."
They had "robust", detailed, driver training programmes, and had recently renewed focus on soldier wellness and welfare with a series of "pre-emptive education packages", related to the signs and effects of alcohol and substance misuse.
"We do have a high percentage of males 18 to 25 years old. I would suggest the instances we have are the normal representations for that age group, but we hold our people to a higher standard."
Personnel charged in civil court were obligated to report their offences to military police, but weren't subject to "double jeopardy", under the discipline act, but some penalties had a knock-on effect for their jobs.
If discharged, personnel were given access to intervention services, if they were required, so they "depart in the best possible shape", Gillard said.
They would like the statistics to be zero, but that would be unrealistic, he said. "There's a constant need to educate and remind people of the law and our standards, tell them and tell them again. It's an ongoing process."
Ohakea Air Force Base Wing Commander Phil Bedford was on leave at the time of going to print.
- Manawatu Standard
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