LGBT+ equality / Soldiers' rights

Falklands veteran fights MoD to get back medal taken from him because of his sexuality

Posted on 08 May 2019

Joe Ousalice spent almost 18 years in the Navy. But in the 1990s Joe was hounded out of the Navy, and had his long service and good conduct medal literally cut from his chest – just because he was bisexual.

Joe Ousalice spent almost 18 years in the Navy. As a Lead Radio Operator, he saw action in the Falklands War, did six tours in Northern Ireland, and was seconded to a key NATO taskforce. His service record was impeccable. But in the 1990s Joe was hounded out of the Navy, and had his long service and good conduct medal literally cut from his chest – just because he was bisexual.

Now Joe – with support from Liberty – is fighting to get his medal back and an apology from the Ministry of Defence for the culture of persecution across the forces that meant Joe and many others lived in a state of near perpetual fear that their sexuality would – and in many cases did – end their careers.

18 years

Joe joined the navy after seeing flatmates who were sailors lead a life he could only dream of as a gas fitter. After basic training, he was assigned to the Communications division and quickly rose to become a Lead Radio Operator. He was a highly respected and trusted operator, who saw action in the Falklands, undertook six tours of Northern Ireland and travelled widely around the Middle East and Asia. At one point he was seconded for two and a half years to a leading Nato task force.

But a large part of his life was hidden. From the first days of training it had been made blatantly clear that two things were banned in the Navy: “drugs and gays”. A culture of persecution existed, led by the ruthless Special Investigations Bureau (of the military police), in which homosexuality was deemed unacceptable and anyone found to be lesbian, gay or bisexual – which Joe is – was ejected from the job they loved.

After a civilian conviction for indecency while on shore leave – a conviction which to this day Joe refutes – his job in the Navy was marked. A couple of months later he was falsely accused of indecent assault, and though fully acquitted of this charge at a court martial hearing, he was nevertheless found guilty of “conduct prejudicial good order and naval discipline” after having been forced to publicly acknowledge his bisexuality. As a result, his long service and good conduct medal and badges, earned through almost 18 years of impeccable service, was literally cut from his chest straight after the trial had concluded, never to be seen again.

Ever since, Joe has been seeking the return of his medals. Despite repeated attempts to get the Ministry of Defence to return them, Joe has always been denied. He has sought the help of Liberty to bring his case to attention in the hope that he may secure the return of his medal and bring this issue to light so that others who may have been through similar experiences know they are not alone.

Joe Ousalice said all he wants is his medal and badges restored to him: “The Navy wasn’t just my job, it was my life. But to do it I had to hide another important part of me, which I did because I loved the navy life so much I didn’t want to give it up. But I shouldn’t have been asked to choose.

I was made to feel like I was disgusting and in the end I was hounded out on some trumped up charges, and told that because I was attracted to men, my 18 years of service counted for nothing. It was heart-breaking. It took me years to recover.

“All I want now is my medal and badges back, and recognition from the Government and the Royal Navy for all the years of service and hard work I gave them. And I also want other LGBT veterans to know they’re not alone, and that we all deserve the same recognition.”

Emma Norton, Head of Legal Casework at Liberty suggested that as result of the culture at the time, Joe was “very unlikely” to be the only person in this situation: “The MoD discriminated horribly against LGBT members of the armed forces for decades. They subjected people to degrading and intrusive investigations into their private lives, destroying careers and damaging lives.

“Joe is very unlikely to be the only one in this situation. The MoD themselves wrote to Joe years ago, saying that they were looking into the issue of those who had forfeited medals as a consequence of their sexuality. So they know this must affect other people. Returning Joe’s medal will go some way towards making amends for the appalling treatment he has suffered. ”

Represented by Liberty, Joe is has taken the first step in issuing judicial review proceedings against submitted the Ministry of Defence in an attempt to force them to give back his medals.

Liberty has a dedicated helpline for any current and former service personnel or their families who are in need of legal advice to enforce their rights.

Thanks to the generosity of the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the ARMED FORCES HUMAN RIGHTS HELPLINE is open 10AM – 4PM Monday to Friday on 02031029313.

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