Lawyers for a military whistleblower, whose leaks exposed alleged war crimes, will attempt to force authorities to drop criminal charges by taking what they describe as unprecedented civil action.
Former Australian Defence Force lawyer David McBride has been charged with offences including theft of Commonwealth property, unauthorised disclosure of information and breaches of the Defence Act.
The charges were laid after Mr McBride leaked documents that formed the basis of an ABC series titled The Afghan Files. The 2017 series revealed allegations that Australian special forces had engaged in serious misconduct, including the killings of unarmed civilians, in Afghanistan.
Mr McBride’s solicitor, Mark Davis, later told The Canberra Times that Mr McBride would argue in a civil case that his actions were justified under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, and that he should therefore be immune from criminal prosecution.
“Essentially, [Mr McBride’s] defence is that he properly followed the legislation,” Mr Davis said.
The Act is designed to “protect public officials, and former public officials, from adverse consequences of disclosing information that, in the public interest, should be disclosed”.