Four ex-SAS soldiers who served alongside Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith have called him a “bully” and undeserving of Australia’s highest military honour, a Sydney court has heard.
The ongoing drama in the war veteran’s defamation battle against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times (which he says contained false allegations of unlawful killings and domestic violence) got personal today.
Mr Roberts-Smith’s prosecution called an active major in the Australian army (codenamed Person 100) to the Federal Court as a witness, in which he recalled a 2013 meeting with four SAS sergeants in his office.
Person 100 alleged that the “collective” raised concerns about Mr Roberts-Smith’s behaviour.
The supposed ringleader of this faction (codenamed Person 7) informed the major that Mr Roberts-Smith was not a “fit and proper person” to be awarded the Victoria Cross, referencing bullying and Mr Roberts-Smith allegedly claiming responsibility for the deeds of others on the battlefield.
Person 100 said this group wanted the Victoria Cross withdrawn from Mr Roberts-Smith’s honours.
The major then had a separate meeting with four then-corporals, who raised similar allegations about bullying along with the same Victoria Cross recommendation.
Person 100 said that there were no allegations raised of Mr Roberts-Smith breaking the rules of engagement in either meeting.
Nine Entertainment’s counsel, Nicholas Owens SC, suggested that Person 100 didn’t follow up on the allegations as he didn’t want a war crimes investigation in the SAS, which would generate significant media attention and public scrutiny.
Person 100 flatly denied the accusation.
Mr Owens asked the major whether he was concerned that friends of Mr Roberts-Smith in the SAS would be angry if an investigation was conducted, and when he was grilled on whether he wanted the alleged offences “swept under the rug”, Person 100 said the situation never crossed his mind.
“I could not report allegations I was not aware of,” he replied.
The trial has had plenty of twists and turns, the defence has accused numerous witnesses of colluding with Mr Roberts-Smith and questioned his integrity befalling the defence of truth, whilst the war veteran has strenuously denied the claims.
More to come.