Military 'criminals' escape real world consequences

Since 1991, there have been 144 court martials held in New Zealand - but only 22 had charges that could be transferred ...
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Since 1991, there have been 144 court martials held in New Zealand - but only 22 had charges that could be transferred to a civilian court.

Nearly two dozen military personnel have faced charges of indecent assault and rape in the past two decades, newly released documents reveal.

And while the majority of them were eventually found guilty, hardly any saw the inside of a prison cell, and none of their crimes ended up on their civilian criminal records.

In January, Stuff revealed how Corporal Corey Kennett was sent to a military prison for six months after being convicted of indecent assault, and how he managed to work at several companies, including a law firm, without anybody picking up on his criminal history. He later said his punishment outweighed his offending.

Professor Garry Clayton was convicted of indecent assault and another charge while he was a lieutenant colonel in the ...
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Professor Garry Clayton was convicted of indecent assault and another charge while he was a lieutenant colonel in the military.

Kennett's circumstances are not unique. New Zealander Garry Clayton, is a former lieutenant colonel who was found guilty of two charges, including indecent assault, in a court martial in 1996. 

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After leaving the military, Clayton, a professor, has gone on to an illustrious academic career and is vice-chancellor of the DRB-Hicom University of Automotive in Malaysia.

Corey Michael Kennett, who was convicted of indecently assaulting a female recruit in the military back in 2005.
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Corey Michael Kennett, who was convicted of indecently assaulting a female recruit in the military back in 2005.

Clayton initially faced four charges, two of indecent assault under the Crimes Act and two of doing an act likely to prejudice service discipline under the Armed Forces Discipline Act. 

He was found guilty of one indecent assault charge and one armed force discipline charge. 

According to the summary of facts, Clayton approached a woman at the Army Memorial Museum and put his hand on her knee before running his fingers up and down the inside of her leg.

After she tried to move away, he asked her "are you trying to tell me I can't sexually harass you?", to which she replied, "yes".

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Later in the night, Clayton put his arm around the woman and fondled her bum, and then moved his hand up under her shirt at the back and undid her bra. 

At the court martial, character references were supplied by military police, deans of faculties and fellow senior officers, which portrayed a man who had given a "very, very large contribution of life to the army".

Clayton's only punishment was being demoted to the rank of major "with seniority". 

Attempts were made to contact him but he deactivated his social media accounts. 

Clayton has previously maintained his innocence. 

Since 1991, there have been 144 court martials held in New Zealand.

Information released under the Official Information Act showed that of those, 22 had charges that could be transferred to a civilian court. 

These included indecent assault, common assault and unlawful sexual connection, among a variety of other charges. 

Punishments and findings varied, with one indecent assault charge in 1996 finding the offender not guilty as they were "sleep-walking" at the time of the incident. 

Many sentences were also quashed on appeal. Reduction in rank appeared to be the most common punishment. 

A Defence Force spokesman said this was considered one of the more serious punishments available for the court martial.

"It is a serious punishment in the military environment, and carries both financial and career progression consequences."

This punishment, however, doesn't extend outside the military - unless the conviction makes it onto their civilian record, it would not come up in a police check. 

The spokesman said the decision to prosecute charges through civil court depended on a range of factors. 

"Commanders are issued guidance on the decision to try in the military or civilian jurisdiction." 

But the Defence Force did not have authority to try serious offences in New Zealand without the approval of the attorney-general, he said. 

Labour Party defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said he felt the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice should work together to sort out the issue of transferring military convictions onto civilian criminal records.

"I think the Government should get control of this as quickly as it can.

"They would find willingness amongst the opposition parties to get this done as quickly as possible."

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 - Sunday Star Times

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