The search of a SAS soldier's room and barracks came under
question at a pre-trial hearing before a court martial at
Papakura Military Camp this morning.
The 29-year-old from the 1st NZ Special Air Services Regiment
is facing charges in relation to theft of army property.
The soldier allegedly sent an email to the Serious Shooters
gun shop on April 9 offering 29 military related items and
saying he had more available, the hearing was told.
The email ended: "I intend on popping out to the shop today
with this stuff and I have more. Would prefer private sale
due to the nature of my work. All this stuff is legit."
The email was forwarded to a senior army officer who passed
it on to the regiment commanding officer and military police.
A military police sergeant told how the soldier's barracks
room, garage, vehicle and personal kit were searched at the
Papakura base on April 29.
He said the soldier admitted having a firearm under his couch
and a bag of needles in a drawer under the sink.
The M14 rifle was not a service firearm and the soldier said
he had been planning to sell it, the sergeant said.
In the garage, 11 thunder flashes and a 200g block of Semtex
explosive were found.
Defence lawyer Melinda Mason questioned why a written
authority for the search was signed after it had taken place.
The authority also said there were reasonable grounds to
suspect a firearm and drug items would be present, when there
had been no such suspicion before the search.
The commanding officer said he signed the form on the
understanding he was simply documenting his verbal authority,
which was given before the search.
Ms Mason also questioned whether there were reasonable
grounds to think the items identified in the email to Serious
Shooters were Defence Force property.
The commanding officer said they were items used by the SAS
and not generally used by the general public, and some had
markings that indicated they may belong to the Defence Force.
Ms Mason asked whether he was aware that soldiers in
Afghanistan, where the accused had served, were able to take
items freely from a disposal bin on the US air base.
"I was not aware of that fact," he said.
Prosecutor Major Peter Brock said there were clear grounds
for a search, and a verbal authority had been given
appropriately by the commanding officer.
"He's got a number of things that clearly give reason to
suspect. It's most unfortunate that the paperwork that
followed this was a complete shambles."
Judge Christopher Hodson ruled the items found in the search
could be produced in evidence.
"In my view a CO (Commanding Officer) on the information that
he had, would have had little alternative but to authorise
- by Heather McCracken of APNZ