Naval Commander Philip Wiig was found guilty of indecent assault this week by a court martial following an incident where he groped a subordinate's backside at the Devonport Naval base's bar four years ago.

There was a former senior MP who did the same thing at a Press Gallery Christmas party a few years back and it's remained under the radar, essentially because the groped, offended woman didn't want to cause a fuss.

The notion of her laying a complaint with the police never entered her head. That's one of the differences between military and civilian life. With the military it's called 'discipline' with civilians it's called 'yeah-nah'.

But is appearing before your peers at a court martial anachronistic?


Prissy Peter Dunne says it is. Courts martial, he says, are a hangover from wartime situations where maintaining discipline is paramount. The military's the only service organisation that tries its own members.

Dunne alluded to a case where a bunch of soldiers from the Linton Military Camp were acting strangely in Palmerston North during Labour weekend and were subsequently found guilty by court martial of being under the influence of an illegal drug called 'N-bomb' - the modern day equivalent of LSD.

Dunne says he was disturbed to read reports that Linton camp military offenders are forced to dig and refill holes, scrub pavements with toothbrushes and shine tin cans. The footpath scrubbing was what the Nazis forced the Jews to do and the other two penalties, Dunne says, are reminiscent of Maoist re-education camps.

He's sent a please explain message to his Cabinet colleague to Gerry Brownlee, asking the Defence Minister to order a halt to such strange punishments.

Yeah, well with penalties like that, the soldiers are unlikely to down the N-bomb again.

READ MORE: Groping Navy commander kicked out of Navy

But can we be so sure that the four Northland teenagers who went on an $80,000 burglary spree and were this week sentenced to home detention and community service, won't reoffend?

Even a regional councillor up there. Dover Samuels - who in his youth had several scrapes with the law, said the inadequate sentence won't deter them.


Perhaps courts martial are the answer then - and rather than being scrapped, the principle should be extended.

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