You are currently viewing From VC to PC to very “Mess-C”  Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith in cross hairs
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith

From VC to PC to very “Mess-C” Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith in cross hairs

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.

Hero, legend, Australian VC recipient. This will be one of the toughest stories in the proud tradition of “The Forces” to cover and write about. We will try as we always do …This is the first in many parts.

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, a former SAS soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 23 January 2011 for “most conspicuous gallantry in action of great peril” strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

(editor: The PM measured and insightful of the allegations)

Earlier on Thursday 12th November 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a special investigator will be appointed to consider allegations of war crimes by Australia’s soldiers in the Middle East following the completion of a long-running defence investigation into the claims. The conduct of more than 30 individuals will be investigated in the report.

The final report from IGADF will be released next week, after a four-year inquiry examining the conduct of the special forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

“This is going to be very difficult for Australians. It is going to be very difficult for our serving community and our veterans community,’’ Mr Morrison said.

“It is going to be difficult for all of us. But what we are seeking to do, as a government, I think what we have to do as a country, is to absorb this in a way that enables us to uphold the integrity of our justice system and uphold the integrity of our defence forces. We rely vitally on both of these institutions, absolutely vitally.

“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court. To undertake this role, the government is establishing the Office of the Special Investigator.”

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed the scandal could involve stripping soldiers of medals if misconduct is proven and they are ultimately convicted of crimes.

She said the Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell is “considering all of those options”.

(editor: The on going detail to get us to today)

orporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, a former SAS soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 23 January 2011 for “most conspicuous gallantry in action of great peril” strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

But the fact he is being investigated by the report has been laid bare in a defamation case in the Federal Court this week, after he was required to disclose to Fairfax media if he is advised of any adverse findings against him.

The Federal Court decision means that while Mr Roberts-Smith’s name may be redacted in the IDGAF report, the investigation into his conduct has been confirmed in a separate defamation claim he fought in the Federal Court.

Fairfax media first reported in July, 2018, that Mr Roberts-Smith was “one of a small number of soldiers subject to investigation by an inquiry looking into the actions of Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan.”

The newspapers claims cover his service in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012, including an allegation that he kicked an Afghan civilian named Ali Jan off a cliff. The injured man was later shot and died.

During the defamation hearings, Nine detailed two new allegations implicating Mr Roberts-Smith in the execution of two Afghan prisoners during SASR missions in August and October 2012.

Mr Roberts-Smith told The Australian newspaper in June that he also denied these claims and accused Fairfax of changing their story on the death of Ali Jan.

“In relation to Syahchow they purport to rely in a brief outline from a soldier (Person 66) who we believe has never spoken to Fairfax,’’ Mr Roberts-Smith said. “Fairfax have given not evidence to explain how this allegation suddenly fell into their lap.’’

This week, the Federal Court ordered Ben Roberts-Smith to hand over confidential documents relating to the defence force inquiry into alleged war crimes as part of the defamation case he brought against three newspapers.

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age and The Canberra Times over reports his lawyers have argued falsely painted him as a murderous war criminal during his time as a Special Air Service soldier in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012.

Nine had sought access to documents revealing if Mr Roberts-Smith had received a Potentially Affected Persons notice (PAP notice) from the inquiry.

But the ADF inquiry and Mr Roberts-Smith, fought against the documents’ release, arguing it could prejudice the inquiry.

On November 11, Federal Court Justice Craig Colvin dismissed this argument ruling the “risk was low” of that occurring if the documents were properly handled.

The journalist who wrote the story, investigative journalist Nick McKenzie took to social media on Wednesday to claim the decision “outed” Mr Roberts-Smith as a target of the inquiry.

“Big news. Alleged war criminal Ben Roberts-Smith VC ordered by judge to disclose files he fought hard to keep secret,’’ he said.

“They detail adverse findings made by war crime probe. RS’ own defamation action has now outed himself as Brereton inquiry and AFP target. Stunning.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a special investigator will be appointed to consider allegations of war crimes by Australia’s soldiers in the Middle East following the completion of a long-running defence investigation into the claims. The conduct of more than 30 individuals will be investigated in the report.

The final report from IGADF will be released next week, after a four-year inquiry examining the conduct of the special forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

“This is going to be very difficult for Australians. It is going to be very difficult for our serving community and our veterans community,’’ Mr Morrison said.

“It is going to be difficult for all of us. But what we are seeking to do, as a government, I think what we have to do as a country, is to absorb this in a way that enables us to uphold the integrity of our justice system and uphold the integrity of our defence forces. We rely vitally on both of these institutions, absolutely vitally.

“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court. To undertake this role, the government is establishing the Office of the Special Investigator.”

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed the scandal could involve stripping soldiers of medals if misconduct is proven and they are ultimately convicted of crimes.

She said the Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell is “considering all of those options”.

Dash Editor

Self-confessed confused news junkie, with lifelong additions to coffee, great conversations, perfection in all its forms, cold wine, hot music and puppy dogs.

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