New measures to tackle ‘unacceptable’ inappropriate behaviour in armed forces

The Ministry of Defence has announced new measures to tackle “unacceptable” levels of inappropriate behaviour in the armed forces which have been highlighted in a new report.

A “significant number” of military personnel have experienced “bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual”, the report says.

It adds that there is a “deficit of trust” in complaints systems, with women and ethnic minorities more likely to be involved in disputes.

There have been “repeated suggestions” that those in the military are not reporting inappropriate behaviour because they fear the consequences of doing so, it says.

Some personnel thinking about making complaints are worried about the “impact on their career prospects” and “being perceived as a trouble-maker”, according to the report, which adds: “Many simply consider that reporting inappropriate behaviour would get them nowhere.”

The armed forces are also lagging behind wider society in dealing with issues associated with the #MeToo movement, and the use of language in the military “can be inappropriate and offensive, simply through a lack of understanding of how it may be perceived by a minority group”.

The report, which was published on Monday, concludes: “Ultimately, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour will only be addressed through a determined effort across the whole force to change the culture, driven persistently from the top and at every level of leadership and line management below that.”

Some military personnel fear the consequences of reporting inappropriate behaviour, according to the report
Some military personnel fear the consequences of reporting inappropriate behaviour, according to the report (Steve Parsons/PA)

The Ministry of Defence has announced that the newly created Defence Authority will have a role in investigating allegations such as sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and give personnel greater opportunities to make complaints anonymously.

Other measures include new compulsory diversity and inclusion training, and a harassment survey will also be introduced in 2021 as part of a “shift in culture”, according to the department.

A Ministry of Defence statement said: “While the great majority of service men and women go above and beyond what their duty demands of them, there is an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour in some areas.”

Penny Mordaunt
The report sends a ‘clear message’, according to Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Inappropriate behaviour “has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces”, said Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

She added: “This report sends a clear message and I am committed to ensuring its recommendations are delivered in full.

“In addition to the report, I want to ensure non-commissioned officers are able to address poor behaviour when they see it. They are the moral compass of the armed forces.”

The report, which was conducted by Air Marshal Michael Wigston, was commissioned in April “following a number allegations of inappropriate behaviour”, according to the Ministry of Defence.

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