Australian member of the army
Australian member of the army (Reuters)

Six Australian members of the self-styled 'Jedi Council' who were accused of orchestrating an internet sex ring have been sacked from the army.

The six leaders of the group, which circulated videos and images of women with whom members had slept - along with humiliating commentary and personal information about the women - have been dismissed, and three of them still face possible criminal prosecution.

Another seven members of the 17-strong ring may also be sacked. The remaining four "have been the subject of, or are facing, administrative sanctions", according to Lieutenant General David Morrison, head of Australia's armed forces.

A further 172 soldiers who allegedly received some of the offensive e-mails may be subject to disciplinary action.

Announcing the expulsion of the six servicemen, whose rank ranged from sergeant to major, Morrison said: "The Australian Army is overwhelmingly an organisation of 44,000 talented and professional men and women, who serve their country with pride and distinction.

"The standard of behaviour we expect of our serving members is clear."

Morrison was praised for his swift reaction to the affair. In an interview he said he would be "ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values.

"I have stated categorically many times that the army has to be an inclusive organisation in which every soldier - man and woman - is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so.

"On all operations, female officers and soldiers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out."

However, the Australian Department of Defence has been heavily criticised for the handling of the issue. Fairfax Media reported in June that the department knew about the Jedi Council from September 2010. However General Morrison and other army leaders were only informed this year about it.