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

Naval commander accused of groping has 'nothing to hide'

Stanley Point, RNZN Devonport Naval Base. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Stanley Point, RNZN Devonport Naval Base. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A naval commander accused of repeatedly groping a subordinate is giving evidence in his defence today because he has "nothing to hide".

The court martial regarding the allegations began yesterday at Devonport Naval Base after an incident at the base's bar after a dinner on the HMNZS Canterbury on May 17, 2012.

The defendant is charged with the indecent assault of a female lieutenant, whom he had known for more than a decade.

Both have name suppression.

Yesterday the complainant told the court she had been groped on the buttocks up to five times over the course of the night.

"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.

The accused, who has more than 30 years of experience, opted to give evidence today because he had "nothing to hide", defence counsel Major Peter Brock said in his opening address this morning.

"His case is he did not grab her by the buttocks, or slap her on the buttocks or pinch her," he said.

"He doesn't say she's made this up but he does say she's made a terrible mistake."
Major Brock said

The prosecution called the case a "failure of leadership and comradeship" but the lawyer disputed that.

He said the case was about whether the accusations could be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

"She did not see [the commander] touch her, his hand move towards or away from her. She was affected by alcohol at the time and she was in a small place crowded with people," Major Brock said.

The defence will call high-ranking officers who were at the function on the night in question but 19 naval officers had already given statements to say they had witnessed nothing of concern.

Yesterday the complainant told the court she was sure the groper was the commander.

"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".

But the commander said that was "simply implausible".

"If a junior officer told me to fuck off, I'd have removed them from the situation . . . and followed it up the next day," he told the court.

The defendant said he had no interactions with his accuser and did not even remember her being at the event.

The trial, before Judge Charles Blackie, will conclude this week.

- NZ Herald

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