Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Czech Army Culture under communism was similar: Slapping, spitting and a death threat: Roberts-Smith’s bullying exposed


By Michaela Whitbourn

Slapping, spitting and a death threat all featured in disgraced army veteran Ben Roberts-Smith’s years-long campaign of bullying against another soldier, a judge found in a landmark defamation judgment.

Roberts-Smith also threatened the soldier with a defamation suit in 2017 in an attempt to “control the narrative” about a specific mission in Afghanistan, Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko said in his detailed judgment released on Monday.

A Special Air Service soldier dubbed Person 1 gave evidence in Roberts-Smith’s defamation case against The AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times that the elite former soldier’s behaviour towards him between 2006 and 2013 cost him “years of lost sleep and worry”.

“Not only did I have to worry about the Taliban but I also had to look over my own back at … people in my own squadron,” Person 1 told the court last year.

Besanko dismissed Roberts-Smith’s defamation case on Thursday and found the newspapers had proven to the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities – that Roberts-Smith was a war criminal who was complicit in the murder of four unarmed Afghan prisoners.

He also found the news outlets had proven the former SAS corporal had bullied Person 1.

Besanko found Roberts-Smith made a death threat to Person 1 during 2006 when he said: “If your performance doesn’t improve on our next patrol, you’re going to get a bullet in the back of the head.”

He also found Roberts-Smith had slapped Person 1 across the back of the head on “at least two or three occasions” during training exercises in 2006, and pushed him “squarely in the middle of his chest plate” in 2010 and said: “Get out of my way, c---, or I will kill you.”

“I find that if they were walking past each other, [Roberts-Smith] … would try and make eye contact with Person 1 and when they got close, he would spit on the ground in front of him,” Besanko said in his judgment, released in full on Monday.


He found that Roberts-Smith approached Person 1 while he was waiting in a lunch line with other soldiers and said, in a reference to his complaint about the death threat: “If you’re going to make accusations, c---, you better have some f---ing proof.”

The judge found Roberts-Smith continued to denigrate Person 1 to others “in strong terms” for years, including calling him a coward, and the significance of this was “magnified by the fact that Person 1 and [Roberts-Smith] ... had only worked closely together for a couple of months” in 2006.

Besanko found Roberts-Smith sent anonymous threatening letters to another soldier, Person 18, in 2018 and had also drafted letters to Person 1, the contents of which were unknown. The letters to Person 1 were not sent.

“I accept the [media outlets’] … submission that the fact that the applicant drafted the letters at all indicates his ongoing obsession with Person 1,” Besanko said.

The parties return to court on June 29 to discuss legal costs.