Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Female naval officer tells of how she was allegedly groped by her superior

The court martial at Devonport Naval Base (pictured) today heard evidence of the incident. Photo / Doug Sherring
The court martial at Devonport Naval Base (pictured) today heard evidence of the incident. Photo / Doug Sherring

A female naval officer has told a court martial how she was repeatedly groped by her superior during a boozy function.

The defendant, a commander, is charged with the indecent assault of the female lieutenant.

Both have name suppression.

The court martial at Devonport Naval Base today heard evidence of the incident, which took place in the base's bar after a dinner on the HMNZS Canterbury on May 17, 2012.

The complainant said she was stood with a group when the first of approximately five gropes to her buttocks took place.

"The first one was quite a deep feel. The other smaller ones were pinches I guess," she said.

She told the court she was sure the defendant was the one responsible.

"There wasn't anybody else behind me . . . there wasn't anybody else that acknowledged I turned around," she said.

"I said 'hey' . . . he gave me a sly look back and a laugh."

After allegedly being molested, the woman said she told her senior officer to "f*** off", which he treated it as "part of the game".

On extensive questioning from defence counsel Major Peter Brock, she estimated the "grabs" took place over a couple of hours and eventually resulted in her sitting down.

"The whole point of sitting down was that felt like protection," the lieutenant said.

She admitted she had had "a few drinks" but was of sound mind at the time.

Major Brock pressed her.

"I put it to you you've made a mistake here. You've joined up the dots on this incorrectly," she said.

"That's your opinion, sir," the complainant said.

A lieutenant commander who was there on the day said most in attendance had plenty to drink and were in a jovial mood.

"The food was great, the company was exceptional and the alcohol was flowing," she said.
But it did not last.

"From my perspective, from where I was situated, the evening was roaring along as it typically does but there was a point where it did change slightly," the woman said.

"Someone came up to me and mentioned that something had happened to [the complainant]. At that point I didn't do anything about it. I know her and she's pretty thick-skinned and she can handle herself."

A male lieutenant commander gave evidence that the defendant was "quite reserved" on the day in question, "which wasn't my experience of him in the past".

He remembered the dinner as being quiet compared to other similar events he had attended.

"Nothing struck me as being concerning," he said.

However, he told the court martial he did notice the complainant looking unhappy in the bar afterwards, which was unusual.

"She's often making fun of others or making fun of herself. For that reason it really stood out to me," he said.

The court martial is likely to last the rest of the week.

- NZ Herald

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