Armed Forces: Sexual Offences

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 8th November 2021.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on steps he is taking to investigate (a) sexual harassment and (b) rape cases through the Service Justice System.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what support he is providing to (a) serving personnel and (b) veterans who have been victims of (i) sexual harassment and (ii) rape while serving in the armed forces.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has made it absolutely clear that there is no place for sexual offending and unacceptable behaviour in the Armed Forces. We recognise the great courage it takes to come forward and report a sexual offence and anyone found to fall short of the Services’ high standards or to have committed an offence is dealt with appropriately.

MOD Ministers regularly engage with their counterparts in other Government Departments, including the Ministry of Justice. Whilst we are confident the Service Justice System (SJS) can and will deal with the most serious offences, we must do better. Therefore, earlier this year, we announced an intention to publish a Defence-wide strategy for dealing with rape and serious sexual offences in the SJS. The strategy will aim to reduce the prevalence and impact of rape and other serious sexual offending in the Armed Forces and improve the handling of those cases in the SJS. It will learn from the Government’s recent response to the review of the end-to-end handling of rape cases in the Civilian Justice System and the Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to create a robust approach.

The MOD continues to tackle unacceptable behaviour. We are implementing the recommendations from the Wigston Review into inappropriate behaviour and those made in the 2020 progress review led by Danuta Gray, which concluded that good progress had been made. We have recently published a Joint Service Publication which provides direction and guidance on combatting unacceptable behaviours and also provides a range of support to personnel experiencing sexual harassment. Last year we published advice on identifying sexual harassment and how to obtain support, and also established an independent 24-hour bullying, harassment and discrimination helpline. For veterans, a wide range of support and signposting is available from Veterans UK, including through its Veteran Welfare Service. In addition, the Veterans Gateway offers guidance on accessing public, private, and charitable services in the UK, making it easier for veterans to access advice on a range of issues and signpost individuals to the organisation best placed to support.

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