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Bullying but no violence culture at Cadet School

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence


1 December 2005
Media statement

Bullying but no culture of violence at Cadet School

Minister of Defence Phil Goff answers questions at a press conference following the release of the review into allegations of abuse at the Waiouru Regular Force Cadet School

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An independent review into allegations of abuse at the Waiouru Regular Force Cadet School from 1948 to 1991 found bullying took place but nothing to support claims of a culture of violence, Defence Minister Phil Goff said today.

The review by retired High Court Judge David Morris also looked into the death of Cadet Grant Bain, who was shot dead in the Cadet School barracks in February 1981. Cadet Andrew Read subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of carelessly discharging a firearm causing death.

"In the case of the death of Cadet Bain, Mr Morris reported that some mistakes had been made by the authorities at the time," Mr Goff said.

"Mr Morris found that Read should have been charged with manslaughter. However he was satisfied that the decision on the charge was made by the Police officer heading the inquiry, and that there was no collusion between the Army and the Police over the matter.

"Mr Morris was also satisfied that the subsequent military Court of Inquiry was conducted properly and in accordance with all statutory requirements.

"However he felt that it would have been more appropriate for the Army to have brought further charges against Read, although he noted the decision not to do so was taken on legal advice.

"Mr Morris' view is that the Army failed to adequately supervise the use and handling of ammunition on the firing range, and that it gave Read too much un-policed authority over junior cadets. However, he was ultimately unable to find that closer supervision would have prevented the death of Cadet Bain.

"I have written to the Bain family expressing the government's sympathy for their loss. I have also extended an offer to discuss what steps might now be taken to help provide some closure for the family – while conscious that there is no action that can now be taken that will return their son and brother to them," Mr Goff said.

In respect of the allegations of cadet abuse, Mr Morris found that in some years a few, mainly senior, cadets bullied a limited number of cadets. Mr Morris states that those involved in the more extreme examples of bullying were probably guilty of assault.

"His overall conclusion was that bullying of junior cadets by senior cadets occurred, notwithstanding steps taken by the Army to stamp it out. There was nothing to suggest that Regular Force personnel bullied cadets.

"A small number of cadets claimed to have been sexually assaulted or forced to perform sexual acts. However Mr Morris found that sexual abuse was extremely rare, and that any occurrence reported or discovered resulted in immediate action being taken by the Army. Offenders were prosecuted and usually dismissed from the Army.

"He found that the complaints procedure relating to abuse was adequate, but was concerned that there appeared to be no provision for following up or monitoring the procedure to determine whether it was discouraging abusive behaviour.

"The review did not seek to establish the facts around individual claims of abuse. Any individual who has suffered serious sexual or physical assault should consider lodging a criminal complaint with the police. Alternatively, complaints could be lodged directly with the New Zealand Defence Force."

Mr Goff said the Ministry of Defence had undertaken a separate review to examine the efficacy of current NZDF policies and practices to prevent physical, sexual and other abuse.

That review, which has also been released by Mr Goff, concluded that NZDF policies were sound and personnel strived to implement them. A comprehensive structure exists to support and assist individuals, and appropriate advice and guidance is available to commanders and managers.

"The review indicates that few serious incidents are occurring. However, it has recommended greater performance management measures to monitor the effectiveness of abuse prevention policies. These recommendations will be acted upon," Mr Goff said.


Note: Judge Morris' report, and the MoD review, are available at www.nzdf.mil.nz

ENDS

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