Navy sailor was drunk and vulnerable in alleged indecent assault by comrade, court martial hears

A navy sailor was drunk and vulnerable when another sailor allegedly assaulted her while they were stationed overseas, a court martial heard.

Able electronic warfare specialist Conrad Lipa-McLean, 28, has denied charges of sexual violation and indecent assault against his comrades in a retrial at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base.

The offense allegedly took place while Lipa-McLean and the two complainants were stationed in Canada in August 2020.

The sailors had booked a two-bedroom apartment so they could return after a birthday party where they had been drinking.

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Conrad Lipa-McLean, 28, pleaded not guilty to both counts.  (File photo)

NZDF/provided

Conrad Lipa-McLean, 28, pleaded not guilty to both counts. (File photo)

The first plaintiff was sleeping on a couch in the apartment when Lipa-McLean allegedly joined her and touched her genitals, the court martial heard on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the second complainant said she was “quite drunk” and “collapsed” after the party and “collapsed” in her bed at the apartment.

Later, she woke up to see Lipa-McLean joining her in bed.

At this stage, the woman was “not consistent”.

“He was trying to kiss me and put his hands on my shorts while I was trying not to spit. I was telling him to get out of bed and he wasn’t listening.

The court-martial at Devonport Naval Base is scheduled to end on Thursday.  (File photo)

David White / Stuff

The court-martial at Devonport Naval Base is scheduled to end on Thursday. (File photo)

She claimed Lipa-McLean pulled his penis out of his underwear and put his hand on it before rolling on the floor to “get away from him”.

In the morning, she messaged her partner in Auckland about the incident.

Lipa-McLean’s lawyer, Matthew Hague, claimed the woman would not tell the court martial that she had consented to the sexual activity because she was in a relationship at the time and it would upset her partner.

“It’s hard to keep secrets in the Navy, isn’t it?” …Especially when those secrets relate to relationships between service people.

Lipa-McLean was posted to HMNZS Te Kaha in Canada when the alleged offense took place.  (File photo)

NZDF/provided

Lipa-McLean was posted to HMNZS Te Kaha in Canada when the alleged offense took place. (File photo)

The woman said she was “worried about how [her partner] would take such horrible news” and wanted to be honest about what happened.

Lipa-McLean told the court-martial that the woman invited him into her bed as he closed her bedroom door, but he “refused”.

When he then offered water to the woman in bed, she lured him with her, he said.

In bed, the couple spooned and cuddled, Lipa-McLean said. The woman also kissed him on the lips.

He claimed the interaction was consensual.

Lipa-McLean told the court that he and the first plaintiff met when she joined him and others seated at a table at the party.

She sat down next to him and began to slowly touch his thigh, Lipa-McLean said.

“I don’t like thirsty people who think they can get what they want just by touching your leg when you don’t even know them.”

Later at the apartment, Lipa-McLean claimed he was sleeping on the couch when he woke up to the woman kissing him and touching his genitals.

He said he pushed her off the couch and swore at her.

“I just felt yuck.”

Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey accused Lipa-McLean of impersonating the victim. He asked why he didn’t report that he was “jumped” by the woman.

“You have been the victim of a rather serious sexual assault by a woman who disgusts you.”

Speaking in tears, Lipa-McLean said he didn’t think he would be believed.

The court martial before Judge Brooke Gibson continues.

What is a Court Martial?

The court martial oversees cases where a breach of military discipline or other offenses may have occurred.

Possible penalties include jail and dismissal from the forces, detention, demotion, severe reprimand or fine.

A judge presides over the court martial and a panel of military personnel will decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty.

If found guilty, the military and the judge will decide the sentence.

Court martial decisions can be appealed.