Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Soldiers serve 'despite sex crimes'

The Ministry of Defence says the armed forces have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of abuse including sexual offences

Twenty soldiers are continuing to serve in the British Army despite committing crimes that resulted in them being placed on the sex offenders' register, it has been revealed.

Ten servicemen convicted of a sexual offence in a civilian court, six convicted at Court Martial and four issued a police caution are still serving in the forces, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "While those found guilty of a sexual offence are normally discharged, each is dealt with on a case-by-case basis and in exceptional circumstances their retention can be approved."

The figures were uncovered by Channel 4 News, which spoke to a former Territorial Army driver who claimed she was coerced by the Army into dropping an allegation of sexual assault against two colleagues.

Donna Rayment, 44, who claims she was attacked in her bed in Germany in 1999, told Channel 4 she was coerced by an officer into signing a disclaimer saying she would not take the complaint further when she raised it. Ms Rayment moved regiments and claims she was harassed before reporting the assault to civilian police eight years later, after undergoing counselling. She claimed they passed her case on to the Royal Military Police and it was dropped.

She later won £6,983 damages for harassment at the High Court in 2010 after alleging three senior officers wanted to drive her out of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), where she held the rank of lance sergeant until she was dismissed in June 2005 while on sick leave for stress. She claims her sexual assault complaint effectively ended her career.

Emma Norton, solicitor for civil liberties organisation Liberty, told the broadcaster: "Any situation that is founded on the military investigating itself is obviously going to have problems but there seems to be a particular issue with serious sexual assault and rape.

"I don't know what the reasons for that might be. It may be that there are not enough women in the higher ranks. It may be that these offences are just not taken seriously enough. But there clearly seems to be an unwillingness on the part of the MoD to open itself up and really have a good hard look at what some of its servicemen are doing."

An MoD spokeswoman added: "The Armed Forces have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse. All allegations will be thoroughly investigated, either by the civil or military police and appropriate action will be taken.

"We recognise that it takes great courage for any individual to come forward and report a sexual offence and we have taken a number of steps to improve training and awareness to ensure that service personnel know how to report concerns and what support is available to them."

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