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Soldier gets 120 days for 'unbecoming' conduct

By Jensen LaVende

AN army private who pleaded guilty to 13 charges of acting in a manner unbecoming of an officer was sentenced to 120 days' military jail yesterday.

Private Ali, who has four years' military service, was charged with the offences arising out of three separate incidents in February.

Ali is alleged to have acted in a manner unbecoming of an army officer when he left base without a pass; disobeyed a lawful command with wilful intent when he left base despite being ordered not to do so without a sick leave form; and did not obtain a sick leave pass.

The charges are alleged to have occurred on February 1.

Two charges of failing to sign in and sign out of base were added to the list on February 4, and the five charges were repeated on February 12.

Ali, who pleaded not guilty to the charges when he first appeared before Judge Advocate Ian Roach, opted to be tried by Ordinary Court Martial.

Ali, who was represented by defence attorney Larry Williams, would have faced a maximum penalty of 42 days' imprisonment had he been tried before his commanding officer in a summary trial.

Ali was sentenced by Roach and a six-member panel, including President Major Kester Weekes. Major Sheldon Ramanan prosecuted.

The last man in this country to be court-martialled was former lieutenant Leon Chandler in 1998. He was convicted on December 19, 2000, of scandalous conduct unbecoming of an officer. Four other charges were also laid against him, but were dismissed by a court-martial in 2000.

He was prosecuted by then assistant DPP Geoffrey Henderson, now High Court Judge. Chandler was stripped of his rank and benefits and dismissed from the Defence Force without any benefits.

Chandler filed an appeal against the sentence, but later withdrew the appeal.

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