A group of army sergeants believed Ben Roberts-Smith was not a fit and proper person to receive the Victoria Cross, accusing him of bullying and claiming the actions of others achieved in battle, a court has been told.
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing for defamation The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald over 2018 media reports claiming he committed war crimes in Afghanistan including murder, and acts of bullying and domestic violence.
The 43-year-old denies all claims of wrongdoing, while the mastheads are defending them as true.
On Monday, Person 100, an army major currently posted with the SAS, testified that in 2013 four sergeants — codenamed Persons Seven, 43, 44 and 45 — had a meeting with him to raise, as a “collective”, some issues about Mr Roberts-Smith.
The Federal Court was told the group informed Person 100 of concerns about whether Mr Roberts-Smth was a “fit and proper” person to receive the VC, with claims aired at the meeting that Person Seven, as well as another soldier, Person One, had been bullied.
The sergeants claimed Person One was bullied and assaulted after his machine gun ceased to function in battle, and was “belittled” for six years afterwards.
Person 43 at the meeting indicated he shot an enemy combatant that Mr Roberts-Smith later claimed, while Person Seven said ground measurements from Tizak – where Mr Roberts-Smith won his VC – were “not in accordance with the citation”.
The sergeants, who wanted Mr Roberts-Smith’s VC rescinded and the bullying allegations followed up, made no mention at the meeting of the war hero breaking rules of engagement, the court was told.
“There was no hint that that was mentioned either,” Person 100 said.
He said he informed the sergeants the VC process was “very thorough” and that it was unlikely the unit could do anything about it, and that the bullying allegations would be pursued, telling the court he subsequently informed a superior of them.
The court was told Person 100 later had a telephone call with Mr Roberts-Smith who expressed concerns that Person One was “agitating” about him within the regiment and told him he wanted the matter investigated.
“He requested that an investigation be undertaken,” Person 100 said.
The trial continues before Justice Anthony Besanko.
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