Army officer's semen conviction quashed

·2-min read

An army captain demoted for asking a female medic to help him collect semen has won a retrial after his conviction at court-martial was quashed on appeal.

Former captain William Michael Howieson was stripped of his rank and formally reprimanded in September for discrediting the Australian military.

Howieson was demoted to the rank of lieutenant after being found guilty of prejudicial conduct.

He was cleared of two additional indecency charges against the same woman.

However, the Defence Force Disciplinary Appeal Tribunal on Friday quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.

Howieson had been working as an Australian liaison officer with the Papua New Guinea defence force for the APEC meeting in Port Moresby in 2018.

The incident that sparked the complaint occurred at a first-aid clinic and involved a PNG army medic who claimed Howieson asked her to "have a feel" of his groin for a lump.

It was alleged that when Howieson pulled down his shorts his penis was fully erect before she told him "there was no lump" and walked out of the room.

She claimed Howieson came back hours later with a doctor's note asking for semen collection over five days, suggesting he needed help.

She handed him a specimen bottle, telling him to give the sample to his regimental doctor.

However, the nurse told the court-martial that Howieson insisted "she had to assist him collect it".

She refused before making an official complaint days later also claiming the captain tried to kiss her during the examination.

Howieson emphatically denied the allegations and insisted he had been delivering medical supplies.

A five-member court-martial panel found Howieson guilty on a single count, finding his actions were a "premeditated breach of trust".

However, the appeal tribunal quashed the verdict, finding inadmissible evidence was placed before the court-martial hearing.

"The (court-martial) panel was exposed to highly prejudicial material which had a tendency to induce a subconscious bias against Captain Howieson," the appeal tribunal found.

"Had Captain Howieson had an opportunity not only to refute it but also to call evidence that corroborated him and thus enhanced his general credibility, he might have been acquitted.

"It follows that there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice."

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