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Army abuse trial collapses

Military police blame 'more urgent enquiries' for 'unacceptable delay' in bringing case to trial

On 23 March, it was revealed that 16- and 17-year-old recruits at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate made 50 allegations of abusive and violent behaviour by army instructors between 2014 and 2017. The Freedom of Information requests by Child Soldiers International and Liz Saville Roberts MP also revealed that there had been around 50 investigations by royal military police into staff at the college over the last decade, with allegations declared to have been proven in about 15 cases.

This disclosure followed the collapse, on 19 March, of court-martial proceedings against 16 army instructors accused of abusing 16- and 17-year-old boys – with all charges dropped in the army’s own court. The judge at Bulford military court in Wiltshire blamed the royal military police’s conduct of the investigation, including an ‘unacceptable delay’ in bringing the case to trial.

During the latest proceedings, it was disclosed that the military police had made no arrests until more than two years after around 40 teenage recruits made allegations of abuse against army instructors. The charges included allegations that the instructors had smeared animal faeces into the boys’ faces, held their heads under water and repeatedly punched them.

The military police blamed the delay in part on ‘pressure from other more urgent enquiries’. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a UK-based pacifist network, expressed alarm that the military police did not regard investigating the alleged abuse of young people as an urgent priority.

The PPU added that the case should have been investigated by civilian police and tried in civilian courts.

Symon Hill is the co-ordinator of the PPU.

Topics: Militarism