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Armed forces anti-bullying line receives 660 calls in 20 months

Labour shadow defence minister Stephanie Peacock said ‘personnel should not be experiencing such levels of bullying, harassment and discrimination’.

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(Chris Ison/PA)

(Chris Ison/PA)

(Chris Ison/PA)

An anti-bullying helpline for armed forces personnel has been contacted the equivalent of more than once a day since it was set up in 2020, figures show.

Labour shadow defence minister Stephanie Peacock welcomed the helpline being used, but said “personnel should not be experiencing such levels of bullying, harassment and discrimination”.

According to figures from the Ministry of Defence, the bullying, harassment, and discrimination helpline for defence personnel has received 660 calls in the period between September 2020 and April this year.

The helpline was set up for service personnel experiencing or witnessing bullying, harassment or discrimination, to “clamp down on instances of unacceptable behaviour in the armed forces”.

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Stephanie Peacock (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Stephanie Peacock (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

PA

Stephanie Peacock (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

The UK has around 200,000 armed forces personnel, including regulars and reserves.

The latest figures were provided by defence minister Leo Docherty in response to a written parliamentary question from Ms Peacock.

The Labour shadow defence minister said: “Though it is welcome that members of our armed forces are able to turn to the helpline for support, personnel should not be experiencing such levels of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“Last year’s Women in the Armed Forces report confirmed that there remains serious concerns around the culture in our forces, but ministers have repeatedly failed to take steps to protect service personnel, especially by moving the serious cases of murder, manslaughter, domestic violence and rape from military to civilian courts to improve conviction rates.

“Labour would do this at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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Leo Docherty (Karis Pearson/PA)

Leo Docherty (Karis Pearson/PA)

PA

Leo Docherty (Karis Pearson/PA)

Mr Docherty responded: “Unacceptable behaviour, which includes bullying, harassment and discrimination, is not tolerated in defence.

“Those who fail to meet our values and standards will be dealt with appropriately, which includes the use of administrative, disciplinary or misconduct action.

“Defence has a wide programme of work ongoing to prevent and tackle unacceptable behaviour.

“This includes the bullying, harassment and discrimination helpline, which is available 24 hours a day and staffed independently by trained professionals.

“The helpline has been running since September 2020. In this time, it has supported 660 staff across defence to access support and guidance.”

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