Soldier has alcohol conviction quashed


A soldier who claimed she was wrongly found guilty by her Battalion Commander of having alcohol in her room while serving with the United Nations in Lebanon has had her convictions quashed.

Private Emma Kells (31) brought High Court proceedings after being convicted of something she insisted did not do and being repatriated back to Ireland as a result. Her counsel said another member of the Defence Forces had admitted storing the alcohol.

Her proceedings were brought against the Minister for Defence, the Director of Military Prosecutions Ireland and the State.

Today, following talks between the sides, Martin Giblin SC for Pte Kells, told the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, the matter had been settled on terms which included the quashing of the convictions.

Simon Boyle SC, for the State, said they were consenting to the settlement but were not admitting any wrong doing or liability. No other details of the settlement were revealed.

Mr Justice Kearns welcomed the settlement and also welcomed an announcement this week that a solicitor, Mr Michael Campion, has been appointed as the new military judge. Mr Campion will preside at court martials.

As part of her case, Pte Kells had said, after being charged, she was given the option of a court martial or summary trial before her commanding officer after being informed of the non existence of a validly appointed military judge.

A communications and electronic engineering technician in the Defence Forces stationed at McKee Barracks Dublin, she took the proceedings over the convicitons imposed after three bottles of spirits were found in a room she shared with another soldier in Lebanon.

Pte Kells said the bottles were there from the time she moved in. She had not purchased them, did not have time to dispose of them and did not want to be seen with them as possession of alcohol was an offence, she said.

Her commanding officer found her guilty of storing alcohol and failing to hand over alcohol to a superior contrary to military Law at the UN Post at Tibnin, Lebanon on July 18th last. She was fined €400.

When opening the case, Mr Giblin said Pte Kells was a gym instructor and scuba diver and not someone who abused alcohol. She had a good career with the Defence Forces and has served in Chad and Lebanon.

After electing for a summary trial before her commanding officer, she was found guilty of two charges while three other charges were dismissed. She was given seven days to appeal but decided not to as she thought that was the end of the matter and was unaware her convictions would lead to her repatriation.