THE former commanding officer of HMAS Albatross, found guilty of falsely claiming spousal allowances while having several love affairs, has avoided jail and will instead be stripped of seniority and pay a $13,000 fine.
Captain Stefan King will nonetheless appeal his guilty verdict, his lawyer, Commander Alexander Street, SC, said.
Captain King, 48, was found guilty by a Canberra court martial on seven counts of obtaining financial advantage, three of those by deception. Those three more serious charges carried maximum penalties of 10 years’ jail each.
Among the other penalties he could have received were dismissal from the navy and reduction in rank. Instead, he will lose only seniority, which means he remains a captain but will have the clock effectively reset to zero on the rank. He had been a captain for four years.
He will also pay a fine totalling $12,937.40. And the navy will keep as reparations $14,933.87 – the amount he is convicted of having been paid falsely – that Captain King has already paid into a trust account while the case was being resolved.
Captain King appeared relieved at the sentence and hugged his former wife, fellow navy captain Jacqueline King, and his sister, who were in court.
However, Commander Street gave notice of appeal, stating 14 reasons why the conviction was “unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence”. The notice also listed 15 reasons why the judge advocate Lieutenant-Colonel Jennifer Woodward had “erred in law … and a substantial miscarriage of justice occurred’’.
And it stated that dozens of emails between Captain King and one of his lovers, the married Sydney woman Robina Frew, were irrelevant and inadmissible as evidence.
The emails, which exposed in considerable detail the sexual relationship between the pair “should have been excluded [because] their prejudicial value outweighed their probative value’’, it stated.
The prosecutor Brigadier Lyn McDade had read out the emails over two days of the trial to demonstrate that Captain King’s “state of mind’’ was that he had separated from his then wife emotionally and sexually.
The military panel of five navy captains found that Captain King had falsely claimed $14,933.87 in food, rent, travel and utilities allowances while he was posted as commanding officer at HMAS Albatross.
Navy members posted away from their spouses are entitled to these allowances. But the prosecution had argued that because he would not have lived with his wife in Canberra anyway, he should not have claimed those allowances.
Captain King had a previously clean record and a distinguished career of more than 30 years with the navy, including receiving two commendations.
The loss of seniority means any future promotion for Captain King would be set back by four years. However, he told the court he thought his career with the navy had effectively been destroyed by the trial anyway.
Commander Street added a twist to the three-week case on Wednesday by alluding to a “threatening’’ email Captain King received from a military superior. He said the email indicated that the intention of the trial had been to seek a jail sentence for Captain King.
Brigadier McDade demanded on Thursday that the email be given in evidence if the defence meant for it to be used as a mitigating factor in Captain King’s sentence, but Commander Street refused.
TO APPEAL: Captain Stefan King, who was found guilty of making false claims, will appeal his conviction.
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