Sunday, May 27, 2018

Court Martial or civilian trial for New Zealand senior officer?

The question of whether alleged offences by senior officers should be tried by military or civilian courts, discussed in this blog earlier today in an Indian context, has also arisen in the New Zealand media in recent days in the case of Commodore Fred Keating, RNZN (Retd).

The article, citing an "unnamed source" inside the NZDF, suggests that Commodore Keating should have been kept in the regular force and faced trial in the Court Martial, rather than being prosecuted in the ordinary criminal courts as a retired officer, which is what is actually happening. One of the factors that the article does not take into account is the practical difficulty of empanelling military members for a trial in the Court Martial of New Zealand, where the accused is a flag or general officer. In most cases, the Court Martial must sit with a panel of three military members. The Registrar of the Court Martial assigns those members. Under section 24(3)(a) of the Court Martial Act 2007, the Registrar must assign members whose ranks reflect the seniority of the accused unless he "is of the opinion that it is not reasonably practicable to do so". By convention, in a case such as Commodore Keating's, that would call for a senior military member who was a two-star (ranks held in New Zealand by the Service Chiefs, Vice Chief of Defence Force and the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand), sitting with two one-stars. That could cause temporary paralysis at senior levels of the NZDF's chain of command. However, the law does allow lower ranking officers to be assigned in order to avoid this. An interesting conundrum...

1 comment:

  1. Could retired senior officers serve on the Court Martial panel?


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