UK

MoD: Army has 'zero tolerance' approach to harassment

British soldiers
Image caption The letter's author, Major General John Lorimer, spoke to 6,000 Army personnel

The Ministry of Defence has reiterated it has a "zero tolerance approach" to harassment in the armed forces.

This comes after a leaked document said every one of 400 female soldiers questioned during an Army investigation said they had received "unwanted sexual attention" during their career.

The letter, obtained by Channel 4 News, also discussed bullying in the Army.

An MoD spokesman said the letter showed the Army's determination to protect soldiers from "unacceptable behaviour".

The letter was written by Major General John Lorimer, who was asked to report on equality and diversity in the Army after speaking to 6,000 personnel - which included the 400 women - at 3rd (United Kingdom) Division in Wiltshire.

He said in his letter to to Adjutant General Lieutenant General Gerry Berragan: "Every female officer or OR (other rank) that my Comd Sgt Maj [Command Sergeant Major] has spoken to claims to have been the subject of unwanted sexual attention.

"This is an unacceptable situation and one you might consider to be a future area of pan-Army focus."

Maj Gen Lorimer also wrote that bullying was viewed as "acceptable" by some in the Army.

"There is still evidence from some that bullying - in all its manifestations - is perceived as acceptable. Some personnel have experienced physical bullying and have been involved in or witnessed this behaviour."

Soldier suicide

And he warned a lack of trust in the chain of command was preventing soldiers from making complaints.

"There is an over-riding sense that soldiers who believe that they have been treated unfairly are not inclined to report the fact because they lack trust that the chain of command will deal appropriately with the complaint."

The letter's leak comes a year after the death of a military police officer, who was found hanged after accusing two colleagues of rape.

Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, 30, from Bournemouth, Dorset, died at Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire in October last year.

An inquest in March recorded a verdict of suicide, but the High Court has ordered a new hearing following an application for judicial review by her sisters.

The MoD spokesman said: "The British army has a zero tolerance approach to all forms of harassment, bullying and discrimination.

"The letter obtained by Channel 4 demonstrates how determined the chain of command is to fulfil their responsibility to protect their soldiers from instances of unacceptable behaviour.

"The Army's values and standards are reinforced throughout military training, any reported infringements are investigated, and appropriate action taken, up to and including dismissal."

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