Bassingbourn Libyan cadet training security 'inadequate'

Bassingbourn Barracks
Image caption About 300 Libyan recruits arrived for training at Bassingbourn Barracks in Cambridgeshire in June

Security arrangements at an Army base in Cambridgeshire where Libyan soldiers were being trained were "inadequate", a report has concluded.

More than 300 cadets arrived at Bassingbourn Barracks in June but were sent home early in November after five were charged with sexual offences.

The report, published for the Ministry of Defence said, however, "little could have been done to avert what happened".

"Severe" security would have rendered the training "unfeasible", it added.

Up to 2,000 soldiers had been due to undergo basic infantry and junior command training at the barracks under an agreement reached at last year's G8 summit to support the Libyan government's efforts to improve the security and stability of the country.

'Challenging cohort'

However, the first group returned home two weeks early after their five comrades were charged with sexual assaults on women and raping a man in Cambridge in October.

Three of the men are charged with sexually assaulting women in the city on 26 October and two men are charged with raping a man on the same day.

Image caption The Libyan troops were the first of 2,000 to be trained at the barracks near Cambridge

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted its rules that cadets should only be allowed outside the camp on supervised trips had been relaxed.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the MoD to investigate the breakdown in discipline at the camp.

The report, produced by a senior civil servant from the ministry who was not involved in the training programme and another senior civil servant from a different government department, described the cadets as "a very challenging cohort of young Libyan men".


By Jonathan Beale, defence correspondent

Image copyright PA
Image caption The MoD gave assurances the cadets would only be allowed outside the base on supervised visits

This, on the face of it, was a noble mission. David Cameron wanted Britain to help train 2,000 Libyan soldiers to get their nation back on its feet.

The MoD knew there were big risks involved in bringing them to the UK, but thought they were manageable and worth the gamble. They were not and the mission now lies in tatters.

It's hard to see large numbers of foreign recruits, certainly from volatile and chaotic nations, being trained in Britain again.

In the near future any similar training carried out by the British military will only be done abroad.

It found the policy of restricting the cadets to base had not prevented "breakouts" but said "little could have been done to avert what happened, other than by introducing a security regime that would have been so severe that it would have rendered the programme unfeasible.

Image copyright Terry Harris
Image caption Troops were sent home early after five were charged with sexual offences in Cambridge

The cadets were not subject to UK military law, the report said.

"The ineffectiveness of the application of any Libyan Service Discipline and the limitations on the powers of the UK training unit and of the UK to remove trainees were tested by the trainees, and were demonstrated to be inadequate," the report said.

The soldiers would have been "easier to control had they been subject to UK Service Discipline".

"We were told that this would not have been feasible without amendment to the existing UK Armed Forces Act," the report said.

'Breathtaking complacency'

An MoD spokesman said: "As we have previously made clear, we condemn the incidents that took place in Cambridge and Bassingbourn.

Image caption The area's MP Andrew Lansley said the "price was paid by the victims"

"We accept that communication with the local authorities and community was not good enough and we are now carefully considering how best to implement the report's recommendations.

"We have been clear that this training will not be repeated at Bassingbourn."

Lewis Herbert, Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, said the report highlighted the "breathtaking complacency that has characterised the Libyan training plan from the start".

"The central issue is that the MoD ignored, and continues to fail to recognise, the seriousness of the risk that it subjected Cambridge and Bassingbourn residents to, even after serious crimes were committed," he said.

He reiterated his call for an "independent inquiry" into issues at the barracks.

The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, Andrew Lansley, said: "To be fair to them they [the MoD] recognise they got it wrong. Unfortunately, the price was paid by those people who were the victims of attacks."

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