MoD vows to fight Sexual Discrimination

From The Guardian:

MoD vows to fight sexual harassment

Pledge by military chiefs averts threat of legal action

Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday June 24, 2005
The Guardian

Military chiefs yesterday escaped the prospect of unprecedented legal action by promising to do more to to root out sexual harassment in the armed forces.

John Reid, the defence secretary, and General Sir Michael Walker, chief of the defence staff, signed an agreement with the Equal Opportunities Commission after clear evidence that not enough was being done to prevent sexual harassment of women in the military.

As a result of a commitment by the Ministry of Defence to tackle the problem more effectively, the commission said it had agreed to suspend its formal investigation of the armed forces under the Sex Discrimination Act.

"Sexual harassment is often described as a 'bit of fun' or 'harmless flirting'. It is not. It is a serious matter - humiliating and intimidating," said Jenny Watson, the commission's acting chair. "It is also against the law."
The agreement was signed in the light of persistent evidence from internal MoD surveys that sexual harassment was still rife within the armed forces. "It became clear there was a systemic pattern of sexual harassment", said Ms Watson.

While the surveys - kept secret until a few years ago - reported that harassment was common, very few women service personnel complained about it. Military culture and concern about the consequences discouraged complaints, defence officials admitted yesterday.

Military commanders, meanwhile, say that while senior officers are well aware of the need to stop sexual harassment, the message has not gone far enough down the chain of command.

The commission's helpline received 62 complaints from servicewomen over the past four years. In a recent case, Padraigin Byard, an RAF Nimrod pilot, said she was constantly subjected to comments about the size and uses of female body parts which were dismissed as allowable as part of "banter hour" during long trips. The crew were offered a curtained area should they wish to masturbate.

In another recent case concerning Catherine Brumfitt, a military police officer, a tribunal heard that a male sergeant used sexual scenarios to illustrate points in training sessions, and frequently used the terms "****", "tommed ***********", "butt ****", and "wanking over the bed sheets".

Mr Reid said he was delighted to have signed the agreement, which will subject the armed forces to close scrutiny and ensure the complaints procedure is "fair, objective and confidential".

He said said sexual harassment was "corrosive of good comradeship and effectiveness" and added: "More needs to be done to embed our policies into service culture at every level."

Extreme prejudice?

Royal Navy

40,280 total personnel, of whom 3,730 (9.3%) are women.

One in five said they had been subjected to sexual harassment in past year; more than a third did not feel their complaints had been handled objectively and fairly


Total 111,530, of whom 8,350 (7.5%) women. One in eight say they are sexually harassed; up to 42% are dissatisfied with handling of complaints


Total 52,760, of whom 6,310 (12%) women. Nearly one in 10 say they have been subjected to sexual harassment; nearly half have been dissatisfied with handling of complaints

Women as % of total armed forces personnel:

Total: 9%. Officers: 10.9%. Other ranks: 8.7%

Highest ranking females

RN: 2 commodores, 1 captain

Army: 2 brigadiers, 23 colonels

RAF: 14 group captains
The full story is here.

I don't want to get 'sucked in' to a raging debate about this - the fact that such large numbers of our people clearly have an issue about it is in itself a good indicator that all is not well.

My main concern is the apparent fact that our procedures for handling and dealing with these complaints appear to be crap at best, and utterly non-existent at worst.

It goes without saying that this sort of thing is utterly unacceptable in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but I only hope that we don't end up with a situation where the accused are guilty until proven innocent.
Hummmm how many of those complaints are from recruits unhappy with being beasted or told they are crap and should find annother career?

Genuine sexual harrasement is unacceptable but I think many of those complaining should not have joined or allowed to get in.

Just like squaddies give them an inch......


Book Reviewer
"It goes without saying that this sort of thing is utterly unacceptable in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but I only hope that we don't end up with a situation where the accused are guilty until proven innocent. "

Too late. This is already the case.

Recurring rant I have but:

Youth of Today: Stick up for yourself, dry your eyes and take some personal responsibility.

Because, ultimately that is what it all boils down to.


I think that the situation already exists and that the management doesn't know how to deal with it or in some cases won't deal with it effectively. Guilty until proven innocent is still the order of the day, despite what is said. The management have careers to think of and they won't allow a little thing like justice to hold them up.

Nobody should be subjected to any behaviour which undermines or humiliates them, but it would be interesting to see the full circumstances of each complaint. Every one of us on this site can relate a tale of a female soldier relying on her gender to get her through a difficult situation. I'm not saying that all of them do it, it's a minority. Even the ladies here will know of examples. It would be interesting to see if this minority however, were the same people who have complained. Each of us will also know someone (occassionally in authority) who is further right than Sid the Sexist, so much so that you wonder why he has been with us so long.

The piece cites an incident with military police officer Catherine Brumfitt. If the instructor had used inappropriate terminology in a lesson, then that could have easily been dealt with at a local level. Was that the extent of her complaint? If so, why did she go to the papers? Hidden agenda? I should laugh as I have no time for the monkeys, but I understand that like the civvy police they do teach their people how to deal with rape victims? Maybe the bloke was putting over the information in what he thought was a 'wordly wise roughty toughty squaddie environment'? He used the wrong choice of words, but what is he guilty of......being a sex pest......or being niaive? Brummfitt is referred to as a 'military police officer'? Was she commissioned or is that the press getting the terminology wrong again? If she is an officer, why didn't she deal with it herself and nip it in the bud there and then? Surely if she is a commissioned officer and a police officer then she should have had the morale courage to do so? How does she get about her daily business keeping squaddies in line?

Morale courage, now there's a thing you don't see too much of in the Army today. Perhaps if we had a bit more of it we wouldn't have the situation we now have with cases like this. Keep yourselves and you oppos in check and we might not see this sort of thing. Similarly, those who have a complaint should keep their feet on the ground and report it to their OCs or the police, not to the press. But then again, I suppose that your OC won't give you money to compensate for the career you weren't good enough for.

I don't know about anyone else on here, but given what I have seen in the past, I wonder how some people can sleep at night.


Book Reviewer
Totally agree with you Biscuits.

I believe that it was the papers getting it wrong and describing a soldier as a police officer was merely journo speak again.

As ranted above, people do not want to take personal responsibility for themselves or others anymore. It is worrying to see this trend growing, especially in the officer corps.

If people want to they could probably prove that a fountain pen is sexist, racist or some other thought crime in a court of law. It really has boiled down to the fact that these spinless, feckless gits do not have sufficient gumption to stand up and defend themselves or someone else. They must run to some EO counsellor, etc.

Didn't we use to have this thing called 'moral courage'. I would have thought that a bit more of it all round would prevent much 'harrassment' be it based on age, sex or the fact that you are an Iraqi POW.


Perhaps if it was encouraged by the managment, people wouldn't be afraid of showing that they have it. However, as a substantial amount of our officers lack the quality themselves and consider those who have it a threat.........who will show us the way? WOs are just as bad. There are very few Warrant Officers out there who will stick thier heads above the parapet.
Sorry, but to anyone outside the PC-brainwashed mainstream, this situation is a blindingly obvious result of mixing sexes in the first place. I don't know why so-called leaders delude themselves that they can simply legislate away about 3 million years' worth of genetic hard-wiring in the brains of men and women.....

(pause, gets flame-proof overalls on..)

From a non-PC observers perspective, there has been a noticable and rather alarming degradation of field army cohesion and discipline over the past 10 to 15 years mostly, but not entirely, due to mixing of the sexes within units. This is coupled with a increasing trend for the leadership to stay "on message" and cover up or ignore problems and warning signs. One has to wonder, what will force people to face reality? - the next bloody, hard-fought war.....?
Biscuits_AB said:
Brummfitt is referred to as a 'military police officer'? Was she commissioned or is that the press getting the terminology wrong again?
This is the official EOC reportage on 'military police officer' Catherine Brumfitt. I suggest you take a deep breath before reading it, and then go for a brew and fag afterwards...

A former Corporal in the RAF, who was victimised after making a complaint of sexual harassment at a training course, has been awarded more than £30,000 compensation by an employment tribunal. The tribunal described the way she was treated as 'a particularly deliberate, spiteful and vindictive act calculated to exact revenge'. Her case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The tribunal that heard her case last year found that Catherine Brumfitt's had experienced 'a deliberate denigration as a result of her complaint' when her annual appraisal was carried out by the person who she had complained about. She had previously received very positive assessments and was hoping to be selected for promotion soon. However, after this critical assessment, she felt her promotion prospects had been seriously damaged and decided to leave the RAF.

Jenny Watson, Deputy Chair of the EOC, said:

"Catherine Brumfitt's promising career came to a premature end because the RAF failed to make sure that she was treated fairly after she made a complaint. Anyone who believes they have been treated badly at work needs to know that their complaint will be looked at properly and every employer must guarantee that employees will not be penalised for making a complaint. The RAF urgently needs to carry out a thorough review of how it handles complaints to make sure staff are not discouraged from reporting unfair treatment."

Mrs Brumfitt had made a formal complaint of sexual harassment after attending a training course about dealing with victims of crime, which was part of her work as an RAF police officer. She claimed that the Sergeant running the course consistently used inappropriate and foul language and chose to use crudely described sexual scenarios to illustrate many of his points. She found his behaviour offensive and humiliating. Although the tribunal condemned the behaviour of the Sergeant as 'thoroughly unsavoury', it decided that Mrs Brumfitt had not suffered sex discrimination because the comments had not been directed at her personally and she had not been singled out or treated any differently to the men on the course. Mrs Brumfitt appealed against this part of the decision but her appeal was unsuccessful.

Catherine Brumfitt said:

"The tribunal recognised that the way I was treated after I had made this complaint was completely unacceptable and effectively ended my career in the RAF.

"The way the sergeant running this course behaved was offensive and humiliating. I am deeply disappointed that despite the impact it had on me the appeal tribunal did not agree that it was sexual harassment. I hope that the forthcoming change in the law will mean no-one else has to put their job on the line to challenge this sort of behaviour."


The tribunal concluded in October 2003 that because the language and sexual scenarios used on the training course were directed at both men and women, Catherine Brumfitt was not discriminated against on grounds of her sex.

However, the tribunal also noted that a new definition of sexual harassment in European law, which must be incorporated in UK law by October 2005, makes it clear that this type of treatment is unlawful.

The Equal Treatment Directive has been amended to introduce a new definition of sexual harassment, as follows: "where any unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment." Accordingly, offensive comments and sexual scenarios on a training course would be likely to amount to sexual harassment.

The compensation awarded comprises £27,000 plus £1,315.98 interest for victimisation, to be paid by the MoD, and £2,500 aggravated damages and £254.66 for the same act of victimisation, to be paid by the sergeant.
The link is here.

I'm speechless.
This story was initially broken by our chum Paul Keetch MP:

RAF women are 'sexually harassed'

Almost half of the women serving in the Royal Air Force have suffered sexual harassment according to a report obtained by MP Paul Keetch.

The Liberal Democrat spokesman for defence said the internal survey uncovered more than 1,000 incidents of harassment in the past 12 months.

Mr Keetch, MP for Hereford, said the figures raise serious questions about the level of bullying in the service.

The RAF said it did not condone any form of harassment.

The report is based on a survey of 2,500 RAF personnel of all ranks.

It found victims were typically harassed by two or more male servicemen of a senior rank.

Most of the women were said to have been groped or subjected to sexually explicit remarks or gestures, although only half of them made a complaint.

Mr Keetch is now calling on the RAF to institute an urgent reform of the complaints system which he says is profoundly inadequate.

He said: "By and large the people that serve in our armed forces are excellent - magnificent men and women.

"But there is undoubtedly a small number of people who are preying on the vulnerable members, whether they be trainee soldiers or women in the Royal Air Force."

He added: "We have to make sure that this element is taken out of our armed forces so that they remain one of the finest, best disciplined forces in the world."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the survey was prompted by a desire to address such issues.

He said: "The services do not condone any sexual harassment or any bullying.

"This particular survey is one of this that is undertaken by the forces in order that the chain of command can get a snapshot about what the forces themselves are thinking about certain issues.

"That helps us to develop policies to get rid of this sort of behaviour."
The full story is here.

Good to see Paul cutting to the quick of the matter as usual, and slightly depressing that it's taken this long to surface...


Is it me or have I read this wrong? It reads as if the Sergeant was her reporting officer? How can this be? I suspect that this is either obviously wrong, or that they may be referring to a course report written by the Sergeant .

I believe that she does have grounds for a complaint if indeed any reporting officer spitefully took her legs out after she' complained about him, whether there was truth in the complaint or not. The writing of any reports after the event concerniong the complaint should have been done by someone else. The again, this is a one sided story, we haven't been allowed to see the evidence surrounding the incident.

As for fining the Sergeant. Ludicrous.......or should I say lucrative? How did they arrive at that sum? How would she deal with bunch of drunks calling her name in the street had she stayed in? I would imagine that she had already encountered that situation in the course of her time as a policewoman.

Why didn't everyone else in the classroom sue him as well?

All this sort of thing does is enhance prejudices which are already there and create prejudices amongst those who never had them before. It also gives out a signal to others that there is money to be made out of the system.

The Sergeant would probably have got less had he snotted her.

So, if you don't want to get yourself a hefty fine.......don't swear in front of your juniors.........hit them. It's cheaper in the long run.
Maybe if weaklings, and I do refer to these people as weaklings were weeded (no pun intended) out early on we would save ourselves much time and money. Are they really in the right job if they are offended by terms such as "wanking"? Once more the militray is being asked to conform to civil societys standards. If you cant take it dont join.

cnuts :evil:


If they don't join.....nobody else will. Despite the propanganda....the Recruiting Offices' aren't beating off potential soldiers at the door with sticks.

This Government has handed so much power to Brussels that many of our laws can be over ridden by Europe and we are now subjected to their nutty continental ways. There's more to come as well.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
My Drill Sgt told me I was a cnut and informed me, quite graphically, what he would do with his pace stick. I am sure that this has totally affected and ruined my whole life (it was obviously nothing to do with the beer). Can I claim back 40 years please?
I spent ten years just dying to be sexually harrassed - some people get all the luck! In those days the Split Arrses were pretty much all dykes and could grow better 'taches than we could, so there was never much chance.

However, whilst on a drill parade at Sandhurst, a Jock Guards Colour Sergeant once asked me, whilst licking me from my chin to the tip of my nose, 'who's the best looking colour sergeant in NATO, Sir?' Trying not to spew at the smell of this man's fearsome breath, dutifully, I replied 'You are Staff' only to get immediately cracked on the head with a pace stick from behind by my Platoon CSgt (another Jock), who yelled 'Don't you fcuking love me anymore Mr B? I'll see you!' He then offered to unscrew my head and sh1t down my neck, which was kind. Was this sexual harrassment? Bloody funny, I reckoned.

The same man, during one of the rehearsals for the Passing Out Parade, said when the WRACs marched on to the square (it was the first time they'd ever done so and it was a fcuking shambles), 'Look Sir, can you see that one - it's got dandruff on it's shoes. That means it can't have any shagging knickers on, doesn't it Sir?!' He'd probably get locked up for that these days; which is ironic, as, that's exactly what happened to me for laughing on parade and I spent the next few hours bumpering the Guard floor minus my hat & belt!
I thought I should add the views of ACGS and DM(A) to this, not because I'm a thrusting sort of chappy, but exactly becuase this is a public site and I'd hate to give the impression that either we (the Army) or we (ARRSErs) in any way condone bullying or harrassment.

It's well worth a read:

The Army has faced some very hard and very public criticism recently. Some of it has been fair; much of it has been so inaccurate as to be completely misleading. We have all seen this criticism blurred into a single mass which presents a real danger of distorting the truth about the Army and undermining our reputation. I am writing to you because the Army’s people – the people under your command – must understand it and be prepared to deal with it. I need you to seize every opportunity to set the record straight.

The British Army has always taken fair criticism on the chin – that is a mark of our professionalism. But I do not recognise the picture painted of our training organisation by much of the media coverage of, for example, the Deepcut issue. The Surrey Police investigations into the deaths at Deepcut have been thorough. The police reports, and the reports of our own reviews, have been hard-hitting. It is a mark of the Army’s professionalism that, where we have needed to, we have concentrated on putting things right with the minimum of fuss and publicity. This work began long ago and continues now. The House of Commons Defence Committee is conducting an extensive review and the Adult Learning Inspectorate is undertaking a programme of visits to validate the work we have done. In the first half of 2005, Mr Nicholas Blake QC will review all the investigations into the deaths at Deepcut. We will learn from all of this; and where there is more work to be done, we will do our best to do it.

It is on bullying that the criticism tends to centre. We cannot avoid the bullying aspect of the ‘Deepcut effect’. We know that there are bullies in the Army but there are bullies in every organisation; the Army is no exception. We learn from the Continuous Attitude Surveys, from the disciplinary and complaints system and through the chain of command that only a small number of our people actually experience bullying. The responses speak for themselves: across the Army, 8.4% of personnel believed they had been subjected to bullying in a service environment in the last 12 months; the figure for trainees is around 10%1. For comparison, the figure for the Police is 29%, and for the NHS 38%. But however small the number is, it is too high and we all have an important part to play in continuing to work to remove bullying from our military life. Zero tolerance, moral courage and determination; these combined with straightforward and effective rules and procedures for calling bullies to account will steadily improve the situation. But we cannot afford to relax on this issue. I need you to set the example so that the high standards of decency, loyalty and discipline, which the Army sets itself, are seen to be upheld.

We should use our soldierly good sense to keep all of this in perspective. We should remind ourselves of the plain fact that our training system delivers highly motivated young men and women to the Army. Their motivation, and their track record on operations, is the result of the highly positive experience of their military and specialist training. Our training has evolved and continues to do so – today’s practices and procedures are quite different in some respects to those of 10 years ago. Some of this change has been as a direct result of mistakes made in the past and we should not be afraid to say so. But most of it has been through the professional evolution which ensures that Army training recognises the changing qualities and characteristics of the young men and women who receive it. It also reflects the changing professional environment for which they are being trained and which is more challenging than ever. Every year over 9,000 newly trained officers and soldiers take their place in the field Army. As a proportion of current commitment levels, some 2,000 deploy on operations almost immediately, where they show commitment, bravery and skill. Their commanders – you – have expressed their satisfaction with the standard of training; they have gone on record to state that these young men and women are as well trained and prepared, if not better, than their predecessors. And their families are fiercely proud of their achievement; 90% of all recruits have family members at their pass out parades. These are the facts that reflect the true condition of our training regime; very different from how it is so often portrayed.

So on the one hand we have the adverse public criticism. On the other, we have the testimony of the fact. Some of us let the side down from time to time but the overwhelming majority of us do a very fine job. We should not be reluctant to hold our heads up high in the knowledge that the good hugely outweighs the bad. That thought and your own actions can sustain us in the face of the disproportionate and almost wholly unwarranted assault on our reputation and integrity.
"the figure for the Police is 29%, and for the NHS 38%"

I think that sums things up, many complainants are simply whingers, being told what to do and being gripped is not bullying. I'm quite surprised though at the figures. Good post Darth


I think that there is confusion here between complaints about sexual discrimination, and people responding anonymously to a survey saying that they had been sexually discrimated against (to which this article is refering). NOT THE SAME THING. It is far too easy to tick a box on a survey, without having to back up the allegation with evidence.

I do not doubt that there are still t*ssers in all 3 Services that havn't woken up to the fact that we now have females pretty much across the board in all ranks and appointments. But in my experience at RD in the Army over the past dozen years or so since females became more fully integrated into the Service, many EO complaints tend to be either groundless, or vindictive allegations that are withdrawn when the facts are established. We will still lose cases at tribunals until the dinosaurs are expunged, but I don't see the problem as being as rife as this article makes out.

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