ADF not bound by civil orders

By Tony Koch.

THE Australian Defence Force has declared it is not bound by civilian court and police orders banning soldiers from access to guns in cases of domestic violence.
The military's position was exposed when it dismissed complaints by two ex-partners of an army cook, subject to domestic violence orders taken out separately by the women, that the soldier was receiving intensive weapons training associated with his deployment overseas.
The army had been served with the court orders specifying the man must not possess a gun before it decided to give him firearms training.
ADF regulations say state and territory court or police orders do not apply to defence force personnel. Senior army officials told the two women that the court orders had ``no application for his military service''.
``At no stage have we had reason to prohibit the member's access to weapons. We do not intend to do so and will continue to employ him as a rifleman,'' they told the women in letters obtained by The Australian.
The first DVO was obtained by the army cook's ex-partner in Queensland, who has an infant child to him. In her application to the court seeking the order prohibiting access to her or their child, she alleged she had been subjected to mental, physical and sexual violence, and their baby son had been threatened with physical violence by the man.
She lives at a secret address with the baby and says she is in fear of her former partner discovering where they reside.
The second DVO was taken out by a woman with whom the soldier established a relationship after separating from the mother of his child.
That relationship broke down after his return from East Timor when, according to court documents, he attempted to stab her in the neck with a screwdriver. She was allegedly also subjected to mental, physical and sexual abuse and has moved to another state to ensure she is not found.
Both women have repeatedly contacted the army expressing their concern that the soldier is receiving weapons training despite the court orders banning his owning or handling firearms.
The army has said the soldier has received psychiatric and religious counselling.
A letter from his commanding officer to senior army personnel says the soldier has his full support. ``I hope that the upper echelons of Defence do not inadvertently act to disadvantage the member due to unproven and sensationalist claims,'' the letter says.
Although he has never met the woman or examined any witnesses in regard to the issue, the officer, a captain, dismisses the complaints by the former partner from Queensland.
``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,'' he writes.
``I have little doubt that this latest instance is simply a continuation of this course of action.''
In a letter to the two women, the army's director of co-ordination, Jeff Quirk, said the exemption for defence force personnel was outlined in Section 2 of the Queensland Weapons Act.
However, the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Act 1989 says domestic violence orders override any exemptions outlined in the Weapons Act.
In correspondence with Colonel Quirk, the women have been advised that the court orders are ``a civilian matter, not a defence matter''.
Asked by The Australian why the soldier was trained as a rifleman in the face of the court orders restricting access to firearms, a spokeswoman said there were ``very strict policy and protocols regarding the use of weapons and these are thoroughly enforced''.
The spokeswoman said that, upon being informed of a court order issued against an ADF member, the member's commanding officer is advised to implement a 48-hour embargo on the use of weapons and if necessary, require the member to undergo assessments.