4 Nov 2015

Soldier found not guilty of assault

3:08 pm on 4 November 2015

A court martial has found a female soldier not guilty of three counts of assaulting a friend, including by kicking her and grabbing her by the throat.

Samantha Fraser

Samantha Fraser Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Samantha Fraser, 24, was charged with assault in the hearing at Linton Army Camp in Palmerston North, in relation to an incident while in New Caledonia in January.

On Monday, Corporal Fraser pleaded not guilty, saying she had only pushed her friend against the throat with an open palm.

She was worried about her friend's safety and did not want her to leave the hotel room, she said.

After three days of evidence and 10 witnesses, the five military members of the court deliberated for nearly two hours before deciding unanimously that she was not guilty.

Corporal Fraser hugged some of her fellow soldiers after the military members' verdict was read out by Judge Blackie, who said she was free to go.

Closing arguments

Earlier today, the prosecutor, Captain James Kennedy-Good, told the hearing Corporal Fraser was angry and drunk on the night of the incident because her friend did not want to give her the hotel key so she could drink more vodka.

Captain Kennedy-Good told the military members they could rely on pictures of the friends' bruises and the consistency of the complainant's story.

"I submit that the photos are consistent with the kick the complainant says she received," he said.

"It really shows there is only one logical explanation to what happened that night, that is that the accused assaulted the complainant in the way the complainant has alleged in this trial."

But Corporal Fraser's defence lawyer, Paul Murray, said the evidence was not reliable or consistent enough to find her guilty.

He said the photographs and the medical report of injuries were not consistent with kicks and strangulation, with bruising either in the wrong place or non-existent.

"The complainant gave evidence that there were quite a few really strong kicks to her lower back. Where is the evidence of any injury to that part of her body? There is none."

Mr Murray concluded by saying the prosecution had "nailed their colours to the mast" by picking such specific charges.

"You cannot get to the point of beyond reasonable doubt on any of the three charges."