1 Aug 2014

Army officer cleared of charges

5:55 pm on 1 August 2014

The defence counsel for a senior army officer charged with making false documents and negligence says his client has been made the scapegoat for a systemic problem.

A military tribunal in Wellington on Friday found the unnamed Lieutenant-Colonel not guilty of two charges of making a false official document and two alternative charges of negligently performing a duty.

The charges relate to alleged backdating of memos authorising a search and seizure operation at a North Island army base, but much of the evidence was suppressed.

The man's counsel, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Watts, told the tribunal on Friday that the officer questioned the date when handed the back-dated memos to sign, but was advised it was standard procedure.

He said his client had trusted what he believed was expert advice and had been hung out to dry for what military police had been doing for years.

However, the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Halligan, argued that as the person who signed the memos, the officer was responsible for ensuring they were correct.

The head of the tribunal, Brigadier Charles Lott, cleared the officer of all four charges. He said he accepts the signing was an error, based on bad advice and a flawed process.