Over 20 soldiers placed on the sex offenders register have continued to serve in what the Army says are “exceptional circumstances.” But assault victims say military justice lacks independence.
The Ministry of Defence has admitted to Channel 4 News that there are 20 soldiers who are on the sex offenders register and still serving in the army. Ten have been convicted of a sexual offence in a civilian court, six at Court Martial and four have a police caution.
This programme has also seen an internal army email which reveals an “unknown number” are still in the army who were convicted but NOT put on the sex offenders register.
The email acknowledges the seriousness of these convictions, but states there are “exceptional circumstances”, whereby a commanding officer can retain the soldier. These include whether the soldier is still “worthwhile” to the army; whether his retention would “impact” on the army’s “reputation”; how long he has served and “ultimately, the interests of the service”.
Channel 4 News also understands that during an army meeting on standards last February, it was suggested that “three to five major crimes per day across the army” are reported and that “of these, most are sexual assaults, rapes and assaults against the person”. However, the MoD claims: “These are not figures that we recognise.”
A woman whose case is now being reviewed by the military prosecutor has told Channel 4 News how she was coerced by the Army into dropping her original allegation that she was sexually assaulted.
Former Territorial Army driver Donna Rayment, 44, alleges she was sexually assaulted by two colleagues in Germany in 1999.
Speaking exclusively to Channel 4 News she said: “I was sitting on the bed and fell asleep. When I woke up I found they were sexually assaulting me… I was in such shock, it was like incest, it was like ‘oh my God’, these men were like brothers to me.
“You feel ashamed. You feel dirty. I trusted them.”
Ms Rayment complained a day later when back in the UK, but was allegedly coerced by an officer into signing a disclaimer saying she would not take the complaint further.
“He told me it was my fault for going into the room: ‘You know what soldiers are like’, which I thought ‘well no, not all soldiers are like that’.
“He said it wouldn’t be in my interest to proceed with the complaint. I thought by signing it, it would go away.”
Ms Rayment moved regiments and was harassed, being exposed to explicit porn and long working hours.
“I went in one morning to find faeces had been left on the toilet seat. So I cleaned it off, didn’t say nothing. The next morning I went in again and it was the same thing. I’m thinking ‘that’s done deliberately’. It was basically telling me I wasn’t wanted there.”
Eight years later, after counselling, she felt strong enough to report the alleged assault to civilian police. But they passed her case on to the Royal Military Police.
The case was dropped, but she won damages for harassment at the High Court in 2010. She claims her sexual assault complaint effectively ended her career.
“The worst part isn’t actually the assault. It’s what happens afterwards, especially in the British military; the way you’re treated afterwards, ‘It’s your fault, you’re a trouble-maker’.”
Ms Rayment claims the military justice system is not independent from the chain of command. She said: “You’re fed by the army, you’re clothed by the army, you’re paid by the army. There’s no independence. You can’t have the British army being judge, jury and executioner.”
Back in 2009 Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement alleged that two colleagues had raped her. The Royal Military Police investigated her allegations but no charges were brought. In October 2011 she hanged herself at Bulford barracks in Wiltshire.
Now Channel 4 News has learnt the military prosecutor who dropped her case had not attended training in relation to rape cases.
Cpl Ellement’s sister Sharon Hardy told Channel 4 News: “He’d been a prosecutor for 10 years. I was absolutely disgusted. My afterthought was how many other people has he failed?”
The Service Prosecuting Authority says a “more progressive” approach to training for prosecutors has been adopted since then with regard to rape and serious sexual offences. However the SPA says the prosecutor in the Ellement case was the most experienced at that time and was “beyond reproach.”
A MoD spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “The Armed Forces have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse. All allegations will be thoroughly investigated… 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.”