ADF fails domestic violence orders: Australian
Today I was contacted by the Domestic Violence in the Australian Army Group. I must admit that I had never heard of this group before. This Group drew my attention to an article in the Australian of a couple of days ago, talking about domestic violence in the army.
Unfortunately, having acted for soldiers and airmen in Brisbane, and the wives or partners of soldiers and airmen in Brisbane, I am all too aware that domestic violence can occur when one or both of the spouses are in the services.
I was alarmed at the story in the Australian of 2 days ago, where Tony Koch reports that two soldiers were allowed by the army to keep weapons in their positions, even though domestic violence protection orders had been made against both of them. One of the men is alleged to have attempted to stab his partner with a screwdriver to her neck after he returned from a tour of duty in East Timor.
This type of behaviour is not surprising. There has been plenty of literature from the US, for example of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, exposed to the full horrors of war, and then committing acts of domestic violence to their wives and girlfriends once they get home.
Queensland’s domestic violence legislation is quite clear that a mandatory condition of an order is that the respondent to the order is not allowed to possess any weapon, and any weapon’s licence is revoked.
We then start getting into difficult areas of law, as Federal legislation makes it quite clear that service personnel can possess weapons. In general terms, Federal laws override State laws. Therefore, while a respondent might not be able to possess a gun for any other reason, while at work, in the army, the soldier might well be able to keep a gun.
It would appear from Tony Koch’s story that much depends on the commanding officer. In one of the cases, the commanding officer (who appears to have only heard the soldier’s point of view and had not investigated what the wife had said):
I hope that the upper echelons of Defence do not inadvertently act to
disadvantage the member due to unproven and sensationalist claims. My
personal opinion is that (the woman) has attempted to make (the soldier’s)
deployment untenable to either damage his reputation in the army or have him
returned to Australia so that legal issues between the two can be finalised. I
have little doubt that this latest instance is simply a continuation of this
course of action.
By comparison, I recall one occasion when I acted for a reservist who had been subject to terrible domestic violence by her partner- whom she had met in the reserves, and who served in the same unit. He was subject to a no contact order, which was impossible to implement if they were in the same unit together. If he remained int he same unit, he was committing an offence, and army personnel may have been committing offences by allowing him to remain there (because they would have been aiding and abetting the committing of that offence). Their commanding officer moved him to a different unit.
The army is keen to be involved with White Ribbon Day, 25 November, when men say that they are opposed to violence to women. Units of the army, including at Townsville, Canungra and Canberra are all involved with promoting White Ribbon Day this year.