A junior member of the Royal Australian Air Force planted a mobile phone to film a female colleague while showering, despite her confronting him about similar behaviour less than 24 hours before.
- Damian Boag showed a worrying lack of self-control, the prosecuting officer said
- His victim told a Defence Force Magistrate’s hearing that the incidents had affected her concept of trust
- The tribunal heard Boag’s offences were serious but “out of character”
Aircraftman Damian Boag will be dismissed from the Australian Defence Force — pending an automatic sentence review — after a Defence Force Magistrate said he was not satisfied others would “feel comfortable” serving alongside him.
The father-to-be, now 21, pleaded guilty to two offences, which his victim — a former friend — said had left her feeling isolated from others and compelled to “constantly” check bathrooms for people and phones.
“The whole situation has affected my concept of trust and establishing friendships. I feel like I was very much taken advantage of,” she wrote in a victim impact statement.
The sentencing hearing, held at RAAF Base Amberley this week, was told the events unfolded while she was attending a training course in February last year.
As a self-described “fairly shy person,” the woman said she had felt “safe and relieved” to have a friend she thought she “could trust”.
But while taking a shower in communal facilities, she noticed the edge of a black phone appear over the top.
The tribunal heard that after she called out “what the hell”, the device promptly disappeared.
The woman visited Boag’s room to confront him about the device, but decided not to report her suspicions after he denied being involved.
Offence repeated a day later
The tribunal heard his behaviour escalated the next day when he took a shower first, then set up his phone in recording mode, partially hidden in a mat, “knowing she was going to go in”.
She spotted the device and seized it.
By that time it had been recording for about 17 minutes, but Boag never saw the footage because she held onto it until it could be handed over to the military police.
In her victim impact statement, the woman said she was taken off her course for two days while the incident was investigated.
“I actually felt like I was being punished for not being able to continue my course — I’d done nothing wrong,” she said in the statement.
“It took me a number of days to catch up on the lessons I had missed, putting me behind my course mates, which furthered my feeling of being isolated from the remainder of my course mates.”
She said even after Boag left the training facility, she found herself constantly checking the bathroom for people and phones.
The tribunal heard Boag told military police he initially thought it might be a “funny joke” to record her in the shower, while the second incident seemed like a “good idea,” though he did not know why.
In a further interview, he described his actions as “stupid” and said he should not have done it.
But the prosecuting officer said Boag had demonstrated a “worrying lack of respect and self-control”.
Despite admitting to the conduct, Boag was allowed to continue with his normal duties before being suspended and charged in November.
His victim described being plagued by fear when she attended a different course at Boag’s home base later that year, becoming “very distressed” when she thought she spotted him across a communal meal area.
‘Out of character’
In her statement, she said it “really prevented me from getting out of the course what I should as I was constantly worried he was looking out for me”.
But Boag’s defending officer said he also experienced anxiety about the situation and took steps to avoid public areas.
The tribunal heard Boag’s offences — for which the maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment — were serious, but “out of character”.
Boag’s defending officer also tendered a copy of an apology letter from his client and references from his superiors.
Defence Force Magistrate Brigadier Michael Cowen said he accepted immaturity was a factor in the offending.
He also took into account Boag’s age, rank, guilty pleas, cooperation and contrition, saying the aircraftman had “soldiered on” after the incident.
The woman said she felt her Air Force colleague had taken advantage of her and she felt punished. (Supplied: RAAF)
Brigadier Cowen said while he accepted the first shower intrusion was “ill-thought”, Boag “rode roughshod” over his colleague’s wishes by repeating the behaviour so soon after being confronted and this amounted to a greater breach of trust.
“You clearly weren’t satisfied, or bothered that she was upset,” he said.
“You don’t need to go on a course to know [it is] wrong. Cultural reform is wholly inconsistent with this type of behaviour.”
Victim’s mother says Air Force’s ideals are just ’empty words’
Brigadier Cowen said Boag’s dismissal would not take effect until an automatic review had been completed.
The woman’s mother penned her own victim impact statement, recalling how she had taken her “naturally shy” daughter to information sessions after she became passionate about a future in the Defence Force.
She said she was comforted to learn the Air Force valued ideals such as respect, integrity and teamwork, which had given her confidence that trusting her daughter’s welfare to the military was “the right choice for us”.
“How could I as a mother have been so mistaken to have put my trust in the Air Force, how could I believe that my daughter’s future would be in a safe environment with respectable colleagues?” she wrote.
“I questioned if the Air Force values were just empty words. Being so far away … made me feel helpless and stressed.”
Speaking outside court, the woman’s father said the sentence sent a strong message.
“We’re relieved to know that he [is being] removed and that our daughter and others aren’t going to be subjected to interacting or working with someone of that potential,” he said.