An Australian Army officer accused of exposing himself and asking a medical officer to “have a feel” of his groin for a lump is facing a court martial in Canberra.
- Captain William Michael Howieson is facing charges of indecency and bringing discredit to the Australian Defence Force
- A female medical officer says Captain Howieson exposed himself to her during an exam, claiming to have a lump in his groin
- She said he later returned with an unsigned doctor’s note that asked for semen collection over five days, suggesting he needed her help
Captain William Michael Howieson, 29, has been charged with three counts of an act of indecency against two alleged victims, and one count of bringing discredit to the Australian Defence Force.
The alleged offences happened during an APEC meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in 2018.
Captain Howieson was the Australian Defence Force liaison officer at the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment’s Taurama barracks.
One of the alleged victims today told the court that Captain Howieson had exposed himself to her during a medical examination when he had claimed to have a lump in his groin.
Appearing by video link to Port Moresby, the woman said she had gone against usual protocol and seen Captain Howieson alone at the time of the alleged offence.
She said Captain Howieson had arrived in exercise gear.
The woman told the court she had felt the area, but could find no lump, telling him: “Captain Howieson, there is no lump in this area.”
She said he then pulled his pants down a second time.
“I said, ‘No, I am not going to do that examination a second time around’,” she told the court.
The woman also told the court it was not usual for an Australian officer to seek medical help from the Papua New Guinea regimental aid station.
Captain allegedly presented unsigned doctor’s note
The medical officer said Captain Howieson came back a few hours later, after lunch, with an unsigned doctor’s note that asked for semen collection over five days, suggesting he needed her help.
The woman said she queried the note.
“Why did your doctor request that you come here when you are under his care?” she said she asked him.
She said she refused to help and handed him a specimen bottle.
The woman told the court he returned the next day, saying his doctor had flown out.
She said she told Captain Howieson she was “not comfortable” and asked him to leave.
Under cross-examination, the woman denied making up the allegations or that she was angry with Captain Howieson because he was unwilling or unable to help her fit-out an ambulance.
She also denied she was angry because he had not provided allowances to which she thought she was entitled.
Captain faces up to seven years in jail if convicted
If found guilty of the alleged crimes, Captain Howieson could face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
He is facing a general court martial that is governed by Australian Capital Territory laws, given the sexual nature of the alleged offences.
The hearing is being held in front of a five-member panel of senior officers who act as a jury.
Unlike ACT courts, however, the verdict will be by majority verdict rather than unanimous, and the jury will get to choose any possible penalty.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of the witness will have to give evidence by video or telephone link to Port Moresby.
The trial is expected to take nearly two weeks.