Van Der Klooster
William Van Der Klooster, born in 1947, at North Richmond, NSW, was seen at Katoomba RSL Club, NSW on Anzac Day, 25th April, 2006. He was wearing an Australian Naval Officer's uniform showing the rank of Captain and with numerous ribbons indicating overseas service. He was also wearing metal "pilot's" wings and metal insignia on each shirt collar as well as being in possession of a Naval Officer's peaked cap (Captain or higher). Was this man a real naval officer? No he was not and he had been arrested charged and fined for a similar offence prior to this.
On 25th April 2006, Anzac Day in Katoomba, New South Wales. Veterans have been to the dawn service and the Anzac Day parade and many of them are now enjoying catching up to mates and reminiscing. It was like that at the RSL Club however there was one exception. William VAN DER KLOOSTER was at the RSL Club relaxing, playing the poker machines and going to the restaurant the same as other members. He also, like other members, was wearing uniform. He was wearing Naval Officer's uniform and in such a manner so that others could interpret or believe that he was actually a serving naval officer.
Was this man a naval officer? No, he subsequently admitted to the NSW Police that he was not, nor ever had been, a member of the Armed Forces.
This is not just a story of a wannabe pretending to be a returned serviceman. It also shows the disdain in which veterans are being treated by the authorities when wannabes seek to steal their honour.
Patrons of the RSL Club who saw William Van Der Klooster were suspicious.
A serving Naval Officer who had attended the Anzac Day parade in uniform and then attended the RSL described William Van Der Klooster as wearing what appeared to be an officer's Summer white working uniform and was suspicious because uniform for Anzac Day had been promulgated by signal as 'Winter ceremonial with medals'. Van Der Klooster was wearing shoulder boards of the rank of Captain, a number of medal ribbons, but no medals, white shorts and stockings and white training shoes and had with him a naval officers cap with braided peak.
An executive of the RSL stated that he had been advised by another member that Van Der Klooster had stated he was a serving naval officer. The executive described Van Der Klooster as wearing white shorts, white military belt, white shoes, white long socks, white short sleeve shirt, naval rank boards (Captain) numerous ribbons indicating overseas service, metal 'pilots' wings and metal insignia on each shirt collar and had in his possession a naval officer's peaked cap (Captain or higher). The RSL Executive asked Van Der Klooster to accompany him to the administration area and then called police. When police attended Van Der Klooster was identified and admitted that he was not a member of any Military Service and had purchased the uniform and ribbons from various Sydney stores.
The NSW police apprehended Van Der Klooster and took him to Katoomba Police Station. (Police Reference: Event No 29224686) This was recorded at the RSL by CCTV, a photo of which has been extracted.
The photo is not good but the only one available. The photo depicts two apprehending police officers in the background, Van Der Klooster in the white naval uniform and various RSL Club officials and patrons.
As the Defence Act 1903 is Commonwealth Legislation, the NSW Police contacted the Australian Federal Police (AFP) who is responsible for prosecuting such offences.
The RSL executive was subsequently advised by the apprehending police that they contacted the AFP and were told that they, the AFP, would not be able to prove an offence as they couldn't prove that Van Der Klooster "..actually intended on people believing that he was an actual returned serviceman.." and that he was"...simply dressing up to enjoy the day.." The executive was further advised that the NSW Police had been told by the AFP that this offence only carried a penalty of $200 and that Van Der Klooster had been convicted and received a similar fine some years ago. This was sufficient reason for the NSW Police to release Van Der Klooster without charge.
The RSL executive took this event very seriously. This man, William Van Der Klooster, posing as a returned serviceman, dishonours all those veterans who have served their country. It is also considered such by the legislature who make it a serious offence under the Defence Act 1903. section 80A 'Falsely representing to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman' and section 80B 'Improper use of service decorations'. Each of these offences has a penalty of 30 penalty units ($3300.00) or imprisonment for 6 months, or both.
The executive complained to the AFP, outlining the events that occurred at the Katoomba RSL involving Van Der Klooster, explaining the alleged response from the AFP, believing that if this was the case they, the AFP were guilty of gross negligence in their duties stating that "the Government has recently taken a firm stand on military impostors where they have increased penalties considerably. On one hand we appear to have the government bleating to the media on how they intend to fix the problem (higher penalties) and on the other, we appear to have the government enforcers totally ignoring the issue". He advised the AFP that he was happy to assist in any way to have this matter finalised.
The AFP replied with the following email:
Dear Mr XXXXXX
I wish to inform you that whilst the AFP has the primary responsibility for investigating criminal offences against the Commonwealth, the number of offences referred to the AFP exceeds our investigative capacity. The AFP must therefore ensure that its limited resources are directed to the matters of highest priority and the decision to accept or reject matters for investigation is guided by this precept. The AFP is not resourced to investigate every complaint or allegation made, even when there is sufficient information to suggest that there is a breach of the law.
Each case is assessed and a decision is made whether or not to allocate the required investigative resources. Each matter reported must be balanced against all other new referrals as well as ongoing investigations and commitments. This decision is made in conjunction with the AFP Case Categorisation and Prioritisation Model (CCPM), available on our website www.afp.gov.au.
The AFP cannot comment on any action taken by the NSW Police in relation to this matter.
Team leader Client Liaison Team
9 June 2006
That is the response to a complaint by a senior RSL executive member. That response is not unexpected but it is still disappointing that when you have an offence where the legislature have recently increased the penalties to $3300.00 and/or 6 months imprisonment and (as you will see) declared that this is considered serious and that the honour of veterans must be protected, and yet the investigating Authority did not have sufficient resources to arrest an offender where he is caught in the act, detained, with available and willing witnesses and CCTV footage, a situation known in police parlance as 'a walk up start'. Its a sad joke.
Following the AFP's response to the RSL executive, ANZMI again contacted them. This time we received a similar response with a new twist. The following email was received from the AFP:
ECONOMIC AND SPECIAL OPERATIONS
Telephone 61 2 92864720 Facsimile 61 2 92864718
ABN 17 864 931 143
I refer to your email sent to Federal Agent XXXXX XXXXXX dated 14 June 2006.
I advise that the AFP does not have a specific policy in regards to "..Investigating any matters that may be detected as offences under Sections 80A and 80B of the Defence Act 1903".
Whilst the AFP has primary responsibility for investigating criminal offences against the Commonwealth, the number of offences referred to the AFP exceeds our investigative capacity. The AFP must, therefore, ensure that its limited resources are directed to the matters of highest priority and the decision to accept or reject matters for investigation is guided by this precept. The AFP is not resourced to investigate every complaint or allegation made, even when there is sufficient information to suggest that there is a breach of the law.
The AFP evaluates all matters that are referred for investigation in accordance with its Case Categorisation and Prioritisation Model (CCPM). The CCPM is used to provide a transparent, objective and consistent basis for evaluating and comparing AFP operational activities from a range of perspectives including: the gravity/sensitivity of a matter; the current investigational workload of the AFP; and the availability of resources. Each case is assessed on its individual merits and a decision is made whether or not to allocate the required investigative resources based on the CCPM and the current availability of resources.
I appreciate that it would be disappointing to the legitimate RSL members whom Mr XXXXXX and others represent when decisions are made not to proceed on matters such as these.
I understand that the Department of Veterans' Affairs has an Investigations area that may be able to provide you with an alternate remedy for the investigation of matters such as these. Perhaps you might consider referring this matter to the Department at the following address:
Directorate of Honours and Awards
T - 1 - 49
Department of Defence
CANBERRA ACT 2600
1800 065 149
Federal Agent XXXX XXXXXXX
Operations Monitoring Centre
14 June 2006
ANZMI contacted Danna Vale M.P to ascertain what was the actual background relating to the increases in penalties for offences against Sect 80A and 80B of the Defence Act 1903. Mrs Vale referred ANZMI to her speech when introducing the legislation into parliament. In this speech on the 26 March 2003 she states in part, relating to increasing penalties from $200 fine to a maximum penalty of $3300 and/or six months imprisonment for breaches of sections 80A and 80B of the Defence Act, that these changes reflect the gravity of the concern of the government and the wider community with practices that are unlawful, deceitful and disrespectful of our veterans and service personnel.
Danna Vale said, "Person falsely claiming defence service they did not undertake or complete, or medals or decorations they were not entitled to, are disrespectful to real veterans and defence personnel. Our veterans and service personnel are held in the highest regard by our community. Their service and sacrifice deserves strong protection from those who wrongly seek to claim the same honour and respect. The government delivers this protection through these increases in penalties".
For veterans who have served their country this has to be a frustrating situation. On the one hand we have a previous minister for veterans' affairs saying that wannabes are disrespectful to real veterans and defence personnel who are held in the highest regard by our community. "Their service and sacrifice deserves strong protection from those who wrongly seek to claim the same honour and respect. The government delivers this protection through these increases in penalties". Then we have the law enforcement organisation responsible for enforcing commonwealth legislation saying that they do not have the resources to provide the protection promised by the government.
Senator Ellison appears to be the appropriate minister to answer this dilemma so we asked him:
The Hon. Christopher Ellison
Minister for Justice
3rd July 2006
I am a member of Australian and New Zealand Military Impostors. (ANZMI) We are a veteran's group dedicated to exposing persons who fraudulently portray themselves to be returned servicemen or fraudulently wear service decorations. You will find our web site at www.anzmi.net
For sometime now we have been providing evidence of people who commit offences contrary to the Defence Act 1903 to the appropriate authorities but to no avail. A recent occurrence was a matter that occurred at Katoomba, New South Wales on Anzac Day, 25th April 2006. A person was detected in the RSL following the Anzac day service. He was wearing the uniform of a Naval Officer and many overseas campaign medals. Veterans at the RSL soon detected that this person was a fraud. In fact he was not, nor had ever been, a member of the Australian Armed Forces. The NSW Police were called and they detained this person. As this was a Commonwealth matter the NSW Police contacted the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
It has been reported to us that the response from the AFP was that they were unable to do anything. The reasons they gave were totally incorrect. In fact they appeared not to know the seriousness of the offence, advising the NSW police that it only carried a $200 fine when in fact the penalty is 30 penalty units ($3300.00) or 6 months
In frustration the president of the Katoomba RSL contacted ANZMI for advice. We were able to advise of the section, penalty and facts in issue for the relevant two offences committed by this false pretender. On our advice he contacted the AFP. His complaint to the AFP is attached at Annexure A.
The reply he received from the AFP was to the effect that the AFP couldn't handle such cases as they were under resourced. That reply is attached at Annexure B.
This is a surprise considering the speech given by Danna Vale in parliament on the 26 March 2003 when introducing the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2003, 2nd reading. In this speech she said in part:
"The first relates to changes to increase the penalties for improper use of service medals and decorations and for false representation as returned service personnel. These changes reflect the gravity of the concern of the government and the wider community with practices that are unlawful, deceitful and disrespectful of our veterans and service personnel.
The bill increases the penalty for wrongly claiming to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman, or for wearing a medal or decoration to which a person is not entitled, from a $200 fine to a maximum penalty of $3,300 and/or six months imprisonment. The Defence Act already makes it clear that an exception to this penalty is where a family member, who does not claim to have been awarded the medal or decoration, is wearing the medal or decoration. The bill also increases the penalty for destroying or defacing a medal or decoration from a fine of $200 to a maximum fine of $6,600 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
Persons falsely claiming defence service they did not undertake or complete, or medals or decorations they were not entitled to, are disrespectful to real veterans and defence personnel. Our veterans and serving personnel are held in the highest regard by our community. Their service and sacrifice deserves strong protection from those who wrongly seek to claim the same honour and respect. The government delivers this protection through these increases in penalties". The full speech is attached at Annexure C.
ANZMI contacted the AFP in relation to this matter and in answer the AFP repeated that they were under resourced to deal with such matters however, they advised that the Department of Defence had investigators and may be able to assist. This reply is attached at Annexure D.
This was also a surprise, although we are aware that there are now many commonwealth departments who have their own in-house investigators, it was our belief that they were there mainly to investigate fraud or impropriety involving personnel of their own departments. We are aware however, that it is possible for such investigators to investigate offences against the act administered by that department; we are not sure whether it would be appropriate as often there are cases that involve not only offences against the Defence Act 1903, but also other legislation.
A case in point is another matter involving a veteran who has not only committed offences against the Defence Act 1903 in wearing medals of valour not conferred, but also, by deceit, dishonesty and forgery in having such awards recognised by the Defence Department, has probably committed a variety of offences contrary to the Criminal Code, 1995 (Cmth). A copy of the report of that matter, which was recently forwarded to the Department of Defence, is attached at Annexure E.
Sir, we seek your advice on this issue. Who is the appropriate body to investigate such matters. As was stated by Danna Vale when introducing the penalty increases in the Defence Act 1903 The service and sacrifice of veterans deserves strong protection from those who wrongly seek to claim the same honour and respect. Since these penalty increases were introduced the government has failed to provide that protection. To increase a penalty without a corresponding policy to investigate and prosecute is not protection.
To this date we have had no response from the Minister and in the meantime we have wannabes such as William Van Der Klooster, by their actions, openly insulting the veteran community, men and women who have put their lives at risk to serve the country.
The penalties in the legislation relating to wannabes were increased because of concerns expressed by the veteran community. In fact they, the veteran community, have been conned. Wannabes are free to insult veterans with impunity. It is now time for the veteran community to advise their local members that they don't like to be conned and that this legislation must be given teeth in the way of proper, adequate law enforcement resources and policy.
13 Oct 2006 Extract of the Blue Mountains Gazette on line
This is published in the public interest, particularly that of the Vietnam Veteran Community. All information presented here is fact and the truth. Reports from private citizens are supported by statements of fact and statutory declarations.