Thursday 14 December 2017

Eight soldiers claimed they were victims of sex crimes by colleagues

Willie O'Dea, TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Willie O'Dea, TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

Eight Irish soldiers have complained to the Defence Forces that they were victims of crimes with a sexual nature over the last five years.

Since 2010, seven women and one man have lodged complaints with their superiors, claiming that they were sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or were subjected to inappropriate behaviour, the Irish Independent has learned.

Five of the complainants claimed they had been sexually assaulted, two said they had been subjected to inappropriate behaviour, while one soldier claimed to have been sexually harassed.

All eight reports came from Defence Forces personnel in the enlisted ranks.

Army officials said that all the cases were reported to the military police and investigations were subsequently launched.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that charges against the accused were proven in four cases.

It is understood that one of proven cases involved a sexual assault.

The Defence Forces said there was insufficient evidence to warrant the charges in two cases so they were subsequently closed. Probes into two other allegations are ongoing.

Assaulting

The Defence Forces confirmed that one member of the Irish Defence Forces was discharged last July after a court martial found him guilty of sexual assaulting a female colleague.

Two of the four proven cases resulted in "monetary fines" being imposed at disciplinary hearings with commanding officers.

And the Army said that another proven case resulted in "a warning to the perpetrator and apology to the complainant".

While the majority of the cases involved just Irish military personnel, it is understood that one incident occurred while the victim was serving overseas and the accused was serving with another nation.

The last annual report from the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was released last year and accounted for 2012 only.

The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Patrick Anthony McCourt, said that of the 77 "active complaints'' under investigation at the time, only eight related to interpersonal issues.

Last year, Private Barry Kingham lost his case in the Court of Criminal Appeal after he was found guilty by a court martial of sexually assaulting a female colleague four years previously.

Private Kingham was sentenced to seven days in custody, a fine of €400 and was discharged from the army.

He claimed that his actions were a result of a side effect of the anti-malaria drug Lariam.

The Defence Forces said that their personnel are trained to "investigate all allegations of crime of a sexual nature".

"Professional counsellors are available to support all victims," a spokesperson said last night.

"Unacceptable behaviour is contrary to the ethos and values of the Defence Forces, where dignity in the workplace is the right of every soldier, sailor, airman and airwoman.

"The Defence Forces recognises that the welfare of the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann is fundamental to the effectiveness and success of the organisation."

'Worrying'

Former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea told the Irish Independent that the number of recent complaints of this nature is "worrying".

The Fianna Fáil TD, who served as the Minister of Defence for six years between 2004 and 2010, fears that the issue may be more widespread and that victims may not be "prepared to come forward".

"It's something that has to be watched and clamped down on, and if people they feel they are victims they should come forward," Mr O'Dea added.

"The office which I created, the Defence Forces Ombudsman, also has a role to play in that regard.

"And people would want to be reminded of that if they can't get their problem resolved internally, there always is the Defence Forces Ombudsman."

Irish Independent

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