ADF says 20 days for sex assault not a ‘light sentence’
THE Australian Defence Force has defended its handling of a sexual assault against a Darwin soldier which saw the perpetrator serve just 20 days in jail.
Former bombardier Alexander Edwards was sentenced to dishonourable discharge in a retrial at Robertson Barracks earlier this month after he was found guilty of groping a junior colleague under his clothes after a boozy night out in 2018.
The offence was committed in South Australia, where the maximum penalty is eight years in prison but Edwards served just 20 days of a 30-day sentence handed down at his first trial.
The victim reported the indecent assault to a superior and the investigation was handed over to military police and ended up in a Defence Force Magistrates Court where the maximum penalty is six months' jail.
But an ADF spokeswoman told the NT News it did not support the suggestion Edwards' sacking was a "light sentence" and defended the military hierarchy's decision not to advise the victim to report the assault to SA Police.
She said the ADF "promotes a victim centric approach to military justice" but wouldn't say whether it was the victim's preference not to go to police in this instance or whether he understood the consequences of not doing so.
"When an incident is reported, victims are advised of their options regarding the investigation of their complaint," she said.
"Sexual offences are generally referred to civilian jurisdictions, however based on the victim's preference, other options are available including referral to the Joint Military Police Unit, or no action at all. A wide range of psychological, legal and personal support is also available to the victim."
The spokeswoman said military tribunals consider the same sentencing principles as civilian courts as well as the need to maintain and enforce the discipline of the ADF.
"The scale of military tribunal punishments includes fines and imprisonment (as in the civilian criminal justice system) and also uniquely military punishments which impact a defence member's service in the ADF - for example restriction of privileges, reduction in rank, detention (in a military correctional facility) and dismissal from the defence force," she said.
"Military tribunals are led by judge advocates and defence force magistrates that have a breadth of experience in both the military justice system and the civilian criminal justice system."