Submissions open on Military Legislation bill including victims' rights, victims speak out

Image: Pixabay

Submissions are being accepted on a bill that is intended to align the military justice system with the criminal justice system, including alignment with the Victims' Rights Act 2002.

The Military Justice Legislation Amendment Bill proposes to amend the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971, the Court Martial Act 2007, and the Court Martial Appeals Act 1953.

Submissions close on 2 March 2018.

The bill addresses the following six areas: victims’ rights, Court Martial procedure, fitness to stand trial, objection to military member, substitution of military member and onus of proof.

Related to Victims' Rights, the explanatory note for the bill states:

"Part 3 of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 confers rights on victims of certain serious offences of a sexual nature or that involve violence (specified offences), including the right to be kept informed and the right to be consulted in respect of decisions such as bail. One of the rights, namely, the right to be consulted on the accused’s release on bail, is already incorporated into the military justice system. However, the remaining rights are not. Amendments made by this Bill ensure that victims of specified offences have rights and protections in the military justice system that are equivalent to those that they would receive in the criminal justice system."

You can read the entire bill online. 

Update: The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has submtted their final report recommending the bill be passed without amendments.

Related news

Former Navy Officer Hayley Young has had her name suppression lifted so she could speak out about her experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault while serving in the NZ Navy overseas. Reported by Radio NZ, Ms Young said "Saying something is just absolute career suicide ... and also the shame that goes with sexual assault is just so deeply personal I couldn't expose myself to that at the time." After leaving the Navy, Ms Young notified Senior leaders in the Navy in 2013.

She has since filed a case against the Attorney General of New Zealand and the Attorney General of England and Wales in the High Court on the basis they failed to provide a safe working environment. Stuff has reported that Defence Force spokesman Tony Vale said "Like public sector employers, the NZDF has legislative obligations, such as health and safety, that it is required to adhere to. Other obligations arise through mechanisms such as Defence Force Orders, and the NZDF maintains an internal military discipline system to reinforce compliance."

Tracey Topp, Karina Andrews and Cherie Ham have also had name suppression lifted to come forward about sexual abuse by a former air force sergeant, the father of Ms Topp and Ms Andrews. They have raised concerns that the Defence Force has delayed releasing a report into the Defence Force's handling of sexual assault complaints and that victims haven't had enough time to review the report before it goes public. Stuff reported that the report has been delayed to address new information.

In 2016, the New Zealand Defence Force launched Operation RESPECT, an action plan to address harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Defence Force. The project includes an expert panel.

Listen to an interview on Radio NZ with Ms Young and Ms Andrews.

Selected media

Appeal Court to decide where allegations of rape and abuse in the Navy should be heard, Stuff, 14.03.2018

Abused naval officer entitled to compensation for her suffering, lawyer says, Stuff, 13.03.2018

Defence Force sued over sex predator's attack on air force woman, Stuff, 04.03.2018

Gender Equal NZ supports Hayley Young, Press Release: Gender Equal NZ, Scoop, 18.12.2017

Defence Force sex assault victims say 'enough is enough' after suffering for years, Stuff, 17.12.2017

Air Force sex crime inquiry: 'What happened at Whenuapai should never be repeated', Stuff, 22.10.2017