Navy commander guilty of groping subordinate named

Philip Wiig groped the woman at the base's bar after a function on board HMNZS Canterbury four years ago. Photo / File
Philip Wiig groped the woman at the base's bar after a function on board HMNZS Canterbury four years ago. Photo / File

The Navy commander found guilty of groping a more junior officer has been named as Philip Wiig.

The final stages of a court martial have been under way this morning at the Navy's base in Auckland.

Wiig was found guilty yesterday by a court panel of a charge of indecent assault.

He groped the woman at the base's bar after a function on board HMNZS Canterbury four years ago .

Wiig had known the lieutenant for more than a decade.

His name suppression was lifted this morning at the court martial, which has been hearing sentencing details.

The case had previously been considered by a military panel in March, but it couldn't reach a verdict.

The case has prompted a Government minister to say military personnel should be tried for crimes in the public justice system and it could be time to scrap military courts.

United Future leader and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said recent high-profile cases of military personnel being tried raised questions about whether courts martial should continue.

"I think it is a hang over from wartime situations, and clearly there is the issue of military discipline in that type of situation," he told the Herald.

"I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about where people commit criminal offences ... I think they should be tried in the criminal courts, not subject to military discipline."

Yesterday Wiig was found guilty at a court martial in Auckland of indecently assaulting a female lieutenant four years ago.

And last week Linton Military Camp soldiers accused of being on the illegal drug "N-bomb" were found guilty in a court martial. A group of soldiers were taken into custody during Labour Weekend in Palmerston North after they were found acting strangely in the city centre.

Mr Dunne said the military was the only service organisation that tried its own members.

"Where you a fire officer or a police officer or an ambulance officer and charged with these offences you would be tried in a normal court. I don't accept the military are in a different position in peace time.

"It is a different matter if it is a matter of military law that has been transgressed upon, that is a separate issue. But where it is criminal law, they should be tried in public in the normal way."

Labour's defence spokesman, Phil Goff, who as Defence Minister oversaw a refresh of courts martial legislation in 2007, said there remained a need for military courts.

"Of course some criminal matters, like if a soldier murdered somebody, would be dealt with within the criminal justice system. There are areas of internal discipline that I think probably need to be retained within the military given the special nature of the defence force," Mr Goff said.

"Happy to look at any ideas for improving the system. But totally scrapping the court martial system would, in my view, remove a long-standing form of internal discipline ... the defence force is not an ordinary workplace."

Mr Dunne said he had heard a media report that some of the punishments the Linton Military Camp soldiers could face when at a military correctional facility included digging and re-filling holes, scrubbing pavements with toothbrushes and shining cans.

He has today written to Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee seeking confirmation of this and, if correct, asking that such "strange" punishments cease.

"The classic humiliation that the Nazis used against the Jews was to have them scrubbing footpaths with toothbrushes. The other two look reminiscent of Maoist re-education camps.

"I just think that sort of penalty is really inappropriate in today's environment."

Mr Brownlee's office has been contacted for comment.

The two principle components of the military justice system are summary discipline and courts martial. Summary discipline deals with more minor charges heard by a commander in a unit.

A court martial is presided over by a judge, and its findings decided upon by a bench of military members independently selected from qualified officers.

- NZ Herald

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