Booby-trapping charge for soldier

Last updated 13:13 10/12/2013

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A New Zealand army officer has been charged with two offences resulting from the booby-trapping of a cache of improvised explosives in Afghanistan in July 2012.

The man's summary trial began at Trentham Army Camp this morning but the disciplinary officer Brigadier Tim Gall has suppressed the name of the army officer who has been charged based on the stress he had suffered in the service of his country following the deaths in action of fellow New Zealanders.

The suppression order includes the position the man held and any other details that might identify him.

Media were excluded from all but the start and the end of the proceedings because the evidence refers to classified rules of engagement and to preserve the security and defence of New Zealand.

However Brigadier Gall said he was not making a suppression order on one of the grounds sought - that publication might tarnish the reputation of New Zealand forces in Afghanistan.

The army officer is charged with being a secondary party in inciting another army officer to commit a civil offence of putting in place an explosive with reckless disregard for the safety of others in booby-trapping a cache of improvised explosives. As an alternative he is also charged with negligently performing a duty in Afghanistan in giving an unlawful command to booby-trap a cache of improvised explosives. Both charges relate to an incident in Afghanistan between July 8 and 10, 2012.

In a softly spoken voice the army officer confirmed he had adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence. He pleaded not guilty.

The hearing had adjourned early when the defending officer said the army officer charged did not understand the charges. After an adjournment of more than an hour the hearing resumed and Brigadier Gall said the defending officer had made submissions about the legal basis for the elements of being charged as a secondary party, inciting or ordering, and negligence.

Brigadier Gall said the hearing was to establish whether there was sufficient evidence to merit the case proceeding, and part of that could be identifying legal gaps in the case against the army officer.

If it was to proceed to a court martial the charges could be looked at again, he said.

He said he thought today's case could continue.

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- The Dominion Post

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