A top Ministry for Primary Industries director provided a character reference for convicted army sex pest Allan Kinsella at his military trial.
Kinsella's appointment earlier this year to head the ministry's new export standards unit raised eyebrows among staff. In 2009 he was demoted and severely reprimanded for indecently assaulting a female officer on a training course when he was chief instructor.
The Dominion Post has learned that MPI compliance director Dean Baigent gave Kinsella the reference, which was provided to the court martial. Baigent last week refused permission for the army to release the testimonial.
MPI has also confirmed Kinsella was known to chief executive Martyn Dunne, an army major-general, before he was hired. Dunne led defence operations in East Timor and Kinsella was part of the deployment.
Last month MPI declined to answer detailed questions about Kinsella's appointment. They also refused to say if he was previously known to Dunne.
However, in a written statement yesterday, a spokeswoman said Kinsella never reported directly to Dunne, nor did they serve together in any operational commitments.
"Mr Dunne, who left the Defence Force in 2004, was aware of Mr Kinsella as one of a large number of junior officers in the army at the time. There was, therefore, no requirement to advise the State Services Commission," she said. "Mr Dunne has never provided a reference for Mr Kinsella."
Baigent was one of 17 people who gave character references for Kinsella, she said. He was Kinsella's commanding officer for a year, which included a six-month deployment to East Timor in 2002. Baigent was not on any recruitment panels for roles Kinsella was considered for.
Following the court martial, Kinsella was seconded to the Ministry of Fisheries. He returned to the army but was given a job with the ministry in February 2010.
Until recently Kinsella was working in Dunne's office as a strategy and planning manager. His promotion was announced internally but not made public. The lack of detail about his background prompted staff to research his past on the internet, where the conviction was revealed.
In March 2007, after a drinking session in the Waiouru officers' mess, he tried to force himself on a female officer. The court martial heard the married chief tactics officer told her: "No-one needs to know, get into bed, I'll do the work and you'll enjoy it." She was engaged to a close friend of Kinsella who was serving overseas.
The hearing, at Trentham military base, demoted his rank to major, dating back to 2004, and cut his pay by $30,000. Four months later he was cleared of allegations that he made sexual advances to another officer's partner in 2006.
Register of the court martial Colonel (retired) Bob Bywater-Lutman said the document written by Baigent was withheld pending possible legal action.
- The Dominion Post