Remembrance Day: our troops deserve the same rights and protections as the rest of us

Posted by Emma Norton on 11 November 2018

This Remembrance Sunday is the centenary of Armistice Day. People across the UK and around the world will pay their respects to those that fought and died in war – and pay tribute to those that survived and to those who are still serving. For many, including everyone at Liberty, this act of remembrance is important and vital.

The sacrifice made by the many thousands of men and women who gave their lives to protect a way of life that we now take for granted, underpins the work that we have been doing at Liberty since before the beginning of the second world war. That’s why for a long time we’ve not only been fighting for the fair treatment of people in civil society, but for the fair treatment of the men and women in our armed forces too. They deserve the same rights and protections as anyone else.

So for us, it’s also important to pay tribute today to the families of those soldiers who have died, not on the battlefield, but here in the UK, in terrible circumstances that their families had to fight desperately hard to uncover.

The families of Privates Sean Benton, Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson who died at Deepcut barracks.

The family of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement who died amid allegations of rape and bullying in Bulford.

And the families of Lance Corporal James Ross and Rifleman Darren Mitchell who died on barracks at Ballykinler in circumstances which are yet to be explained and whose inquests are next year.

A number of other service women are trying to ensure some form of accountability and justice following their own sexual assaults and Liberty is helping them to do that. We pay tribute to them too.

Those families and those women have taken these cases to ensure lessons are learned and the lives and experiences of others could be improved.

And they want to see better rights protection now for serving people.

Just in the last year alone, it has been revealed that sexual harassment in the armed forces remains a serious and pressing problem, that the vast majority of those who complained were unhappy with the outcome and that many didn't even bother to complain because they feared – and had been told that – it would impact negatively on their career.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman stated that the service complaints process – which is supposed to help service people resolve their problems and address bullying and harassment – is “neither efficient, effective or fair”. Female and BAME service personnel are still over-represented in the complaints system, suggesting something is seriously wrong with the forces' treatment of those groups.

When she recommended that the MoD commission a study to investigate what was going on, the MoD agreed – but said that it would conduct the study itself.

Criminal offences which ought to be dealt with by civilian police are being investigated by military police who lack the resources and expertise to run them properly. And the Court Martial seems incapable of delivering justice for victims of rape with just two out of the 48 cases that came to trial last year resulting in a conviction.

The best way to honour those who have given their lives, and those who still are in the forces, is to look after our service people properly and give them the same basic protections that the rest of us enjoy. Second-best justice is not good enough.

Emma Norton

Emma Norton

Liberty
Head of Legal Casework