Back to top

New army abuse revelations show army must lose power to police itself

Teenagers in military uniform marching in Llandudno

New army abuse revelations show army must lose power to police itself

The revelation that instructors at an army training college have been investigated dozens of times for alleged abuse and ill-treatment has triggered fresh calls for the armed forces to lose their power to maintain their own police forces and run their own criminal trials.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) expressed horror at the news that 16- and 17-year-old recruits at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate made fifty allegations of abusive and violent behaviour by army instructors between 2014 and 2017.

In addition, there have been around fifty investigations by Royal Military Police into staff at the College over the last decade. In about fifteen cases, the allegations were declared to have been proven.

The figures emerged last night (23 March) following Freedom of Information requests by Child Soldiers International and Liz Saville Roberts MP. The Peace Pledge Union today thanked them for obtaining the information, which the Military Police had not previously made public.

The news follows the collapse of court-martial proceedings against 16 instructors at the College, who were accused of mistreating young recruits. The judge blamed the Military Police, who had not arrested any instructors until two years after the allegations were made to them.

The PPU today reiterated its call for allegations of abuse within the armed forces to be dealt with by civilian police and civilian courts.

They added that the revelations give the lie to the army's latest recruitment campaign, launched in January, which claims that recruits receive “emotional support” in the army.

The Army Foundation College in Harrogate trains nearly all recruits who join the British army at the age of 16 or 17. The UK is the only country in Europe to recruit people as young as 16 into the armed forces.

Symon Hill, Co-ordinator of the Peace Pledge Union, said this morning:

“These revelations should be a wake-up call to those politicians who still argue that the armed forces should be allowed to police themselves. It's time that politicians put the needs of vulnerable 16-year-olds ahead of their reluctance to criticise the armed forces.

“Imagine if the staff of a school had faced 50 police investigations, with 15 allegations proven to be true. It would have been closed down by now. Yet the Army Foundation College is not only allowed to continue running, but the army is permitted to use its own police and courts, effectively operating outside the law that the rest of us have to follow.

“The Army Foundation College, like the army as a whole, is an abusive institution. Armed forces brutalise vulnerable young people so that they will do appalling things to other human beings. This is what armies do. This is what armies are.”