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Army warned on bullying complaints


The Ministry of Defence faces legal action by an ex-private who says he attempted suicide

The Ministry of Defence faces legal action by an ex-private who says he attempted suicide

The Ministry of Defence faces legal action by an ex-private who says he attempted suicide

The Army was warned it is running out of time to show it can deal with bullying as the Ministry of Defence faced legal action by an ex-private who says he attempted suicide several times after his complaints were ignored.

Joseph McCabe said that he received death threats and was stabbed in the leg at the height of constant abuse centred on his stutter but that officers laughed off the threats and no-one was punished.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while on tour in Iraq someone held a knife to his throat and told him: "you've got until the end of the tour to kill yourself, if not, accidents happen".

Requests to transfer out of his regiment were denied with no reasons given, he alleged, and psychiatrists to whom he was sent after five attempts to take his own life on camp said there was nothing wrong with him.

He is taking civil legal action against the MoD for its alleged failure to act, the BBC reported, as well as appealing against a decision to deny him financial compensation.

Mr McCabe told the programme: "I'm still having nightmares, I'm still having flashbacks. If I could I would lock myself up in a box and just hide away.

"But if I do that it's like I'm letting those people in the Army win so I have forced myself to take up a new career, to rebuild my life."

The Ministry of Defence said: "Whilst we can't comment on individual cases, we can be clear that the armed forces have a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse.

"All allegations will be fully investigated either by the civil or the military police and appropriate action will be taken."

Official figures recently showed one in ten military personnel claim to have been the victim of "discrimination, harassment or bullying in a service environment" in the last year - a rise of 25% on the previous 12 months.

The release of the latest survey of morale intensified pressure for an independent ombudsman to be given responsibility for investigating claims.

Former colonel Lincoln Jupp, who commanded the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in Afghanistan in 2011, said "the clock is ticking" for the military to show it can deal properly with the issue internally.

He suggested some of the steep rise in cases was down to successful education campaigns which had encouraged more reporting but accepted too few were still being properly dealt with.

"The armed forces are coming to terms with the fact that it has got to change and so are probably behind the curve and have got to catch up," he told Today.

"The clock is ticking on the armed forces to get its own house in order because there are too many incidences and too many complaints which don't appear to be being dealt with quickly enough.

"The challenge in terms of applying the right standard of behaviour are for every layer of the chain of command to do their bit."

Dr Susan Atkins, the Service Complaints Commissioner, is in talks with the Ministry of Defence about reforming the role and would like to see it become an independent ombudsman.

She is backed by ex-forces charities and the Defence Select Committee and Prime Minister David Cameron recently told MPs he was taking a personal interest in the progress of the talks.

There are concerns within the armed forces that an outside regulator is incompatible with the chain of command.