Detention rates falling in armed forces
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Detention rates falling in armed forces

DETENTION in military prisons is falling despite the armed forces facing a number of sex scandals and mounting pressure to discipline members who abuse and demean women.

Until mid June , 11 defence force members were locked up in the Defence Force Corrective Establishment at Lamia Barracks, within Holsworthy, Sydney.

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Credit:Robert Gunstone

Forty-two members were detained in the DFCE in 2012. In 2011, 45 defence force members were detained, down from 69 in 2010.

Members of the defence force can be held at the Sydney facility for 14 days to two years. This year sentences ranged from one to 90 days, one member was sentenced to 14 days' detention for insubordinate conduct, another was sentenced to 21 days' detention for disobeying a lawful command. Five members were detained for between one to 27 days for being absent without leave, while three members were detained for between seven and 45 days for financial offences. The longest sentence was 90 days' detention for fraud.

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A Fairfax Media request to tour the Sydney facility was denied.

Australian National University law professor Susan Harris Rimmer said incidents and, in particular violence, sexual harassment and assaults against women within the armed forces were under-reported and she criticised the lack of transparency.

''Everything is determined by commanding officers so the application of justice is still very personalised and that's why you have this variety,'' Professor Harris Rimmer said.

Across Australia there are 15 army, navy and air force unit and area detention centres on military bases including the Albury Wodonga Military Area, unit detention centre in New South Wales and the detention centre at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria. Detention rates on local bases are also falling.

In 2012, 66 members of the armed forces were given ''detention'', down from 93 in 2010. In 2011 there were 43 detentions. Until May 29 this year four members have been detained for a total of 88 days on local bases. One soldier was held for 28 days for insubordinate conduct and refusing to submit to arrest.

Defence media denied a request for an interview with a military justice expert but in an email statement said detainees underwent retraining in basic military skills and rehabilitation.

''The DFCE has a dedicated rehabilitation cell, which monitors detainees' personal development and co-ordinates essential services such as medical, psychological support, padre and legal services,'' a spokeswoman said.

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''Detainees also conduct charity work and other activities under supervision designed to assist the detainee in returning to the Australian Defence Force.''

She said the average sentence was about 23 days.