Military staff 'turning blind eye to bullying' in East Yorkshire: Army recruit warned not to pursue sex assault complaint
MILITARY staff have been accused of turning a blind eye to bullying in East Yorkshire after a teenage army recruit was intimidated, humiliated and sexually assaulted.
A widespread culture of bullying and attempts to pervert the course of justice was uncovered during a criminal trial in Hull.
Military staff stand accused of ignoring complaints of bullying and abuse, with one senior recruitment officer warning the sexual assault victim her army career would be over if she attempted to bring her attacker to justice.
Five students refused to give evidence against Nathan Williams, 20, of Beverley, who sexually assaulted the girl and subjected her to months of bullying.
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Now, a senior judge has expressed concern that lessons have not been learnt from the Deepcut Barracks scandal, where four soldiers committed suicide at the army base between 1995 and 2002 as reports were made of systematic bullying from senior officers.
A report by Nicholas Blake QC in 2006 ruled bullying and "foul abuse" were a routine part of life at the Army's training barracks in Surrey, leading to demands for a radical overhaul of the training of recruits.
Speaking about the case involving Williams, Judge Michael Mettyear said: "There was a chilling moment when she (the victim) mentioned Deepcut and we know what's gone on there with people withholding information and suicides.
"I'm worried if there is something in the culture of the Army and people training in the Army to keep their mouths shut.
"I'm really concerned about five students declining to give statements. It looks as though it has been directed by someone.
"I don't want to blame them because what we have found in the case with this girl is someone in there actually telling them it might interfere with their careers, and it's hardly surprising. I'm worried about the wider implications with all the problems at Deepcut."
Williams had been training to go into the Army at the Quality Personal Development (QPD) College in Hessle Road, west Hull, when he humiliated and bullied the girl for months before subjecting her to a sexual assault.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, complained to staff at the college, which prepares students for a career in the Armed Forces, but no action was taken, forcing her to call in police.
In tears, the girl told the court: "If I asked him to stop, it just got worse. I just felt humiliated and degraded. I told the staff and they were fairly dismissive and they told me he was being childish. I told them at least twice. I was horrified, I couldn't believe it. He was looking at me as though I was a joke, someone to be mocked.
"I felt degraded, I just wanted to get on with things and ignore it. I had just had enough. I just wanted to get it stopped and college was not doing much, so I decided to go to the police."
However, one month after giving a statement to police, a recruiting sergeant in Hull warned her she would not be able to take up her place in the Army if she pursued the complaint, the court heard. The girl withdrew her complaint until Detective Constable Angie Elvin, of Humberside Police, warned staff they would be perverting the course of justice if they failed to allow the girl to continue the case.
Now, a jury at Hull Crown Court has found Williams guilty of sexual assault.
Since the ordeal endured by the girl, police officers have been sent into the college every month to speak to new recruits about their behaviour in an attempt to tackle the bullying culture.
DC Elvin said: "She was poked, prodded, cajoled and called a lesbian. He humiliated her in front of her colleagues. It started off as tomfoolery but then it became more of a cultural thing within the organisation.
"It was institutionalised bullying because it was accepted and no one addressed it.
Deferring sentence for reports, Judge Metttyear ordered Williams to sign the sex offenders register for the attack on the girl.
However, the judge said he was not expecting to send him to jail.
Judge Mettyear said Williams had "learnt a lot of lessons" but expressed concern over his attitude towards women.
The judge said: "I'm worried he has an attitude problem with women and maybe some sort of help is needed for him. These are not sexual offences for sexual gratification – this was bullying and the desire to get attention."
The QPD College is run by former soldiers but is accredited by Hull City Council, which suspended its permission to enrol students until it took steps to address safeguarding issues by working wit the police.
Gary Parkinson, assistant head of service for 14 to 19 team and skills at the city council, said: "Hull City Council is unable to comment on the individual case. However we are satisfied that the training provider has reviewed and improved their safeguarding procedures."