Armed Forces: Bullying
Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in how many cases an assisting officer has been withheld from a soldier wishing to make a complaint of bullying and harassment in the latest period for which figures are available.
Andrew Robathan (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans), Defence; South Leicestershire, Conservative)
During calendar year 2011, there were a total of 493 Service complaints submitted to the Army, of which 228 related to allegations of bullying or harassment. Of the overall total, 94 complainants did not receive an assisting officer, of which 88 formally confirmed that they did not require one.
Information is being sought on whether any of the six cases without an assisting officer were complaints of bullying and harassment and, if so, to establish whether an assisting officer was refused. I will write to the right hon. Gentleman when this is received.
I am now in a position to provide you with that information. I need to inform you that an error has been identified in the original answer. I stated that 94 complainants did not receive an assisting officer, of which 88 had formally confirmed that they did not require one. The correct answer is that 92 complainants did not receive an assisting officer, of which 88 had formally confirmed that they did not require one. I apologise for this.
Having identified the error, there were four rather than six cases for which information was required. Of these, only two were alleged complaints of bullying and/or harassment and in neither case was an assisting officer deliberately withheld from the complainant.
In the first of these cases the unit had regrettably omitted to ask if the complainant wanted an assisting officer—the individual was in the process of returning to the UK before discharge from the service at the time of the complaint. In the second case the individual was offered opportunities for interviews to discuss the complaint, where an assisting officer would have been offered, but the complainant did not make contact. The individual was also advised by the Service Complaints Commissioner to approach the Army's Service Complaints Wing direct, which they failed to do. That individual was, however, supported by an assisting officer in relation to a criminal offence and provided additional support by the Army Welfare Service.