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Inquest Into Alleged Abuse Of Teenage Army Recruits Collapses

Picture of junior soldiers marching at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate

One of the largest inquiries into the alleged abuse of teenage army recruits in Britain has collapsed after a "seriously flawed" investigation by the Royal Military Police.

The judge halted the first of three court-martials at Bulford, amid problems of missing evidence and claims that witnesses were forced to make statements.

The decision by Assistant Judge Advocate General Alan Large ended a three-year police probe centring on the treatment of recruits at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

Further fears surround allegations that the RMP may have mishandled other cases, such as Operation Northmoor - the inquiry into alleged abuses by British soldiers in Afghanistan.

There are now calls for senior RMP officers to be investigated.

It was alleged that 16 instructors - all Sergeants or Corporals - ill-treated 28 teenagers while posted to the Army Foundation College.

Some of the recruits told the court martial in Bulford that the instructors would get them fired up by making them play British Bulldog, by putting on "war faces" and getting them running between two hills, known as "heaven" and "hell", ahead of bayonet training during a battle camp at Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, in the summer of 2014.

It was claimed that the 16 and 17 years olds were slapped or punched in the face, spat at, grabbed by the throat, had their faces submerged in mud or were ordered to eat animal manure.

But after eight days, the prosecution offered no evidence in response to 24 of the 31 charges the first 10 defendants faced. Five of them were acquitted.

The trial of the remaining five instructors continued for another day until the judge stayed proceedings, ruling they could not get a fair trial.

The Judge condemned the RMP for a "seriously flawed" and "totally blinkered approach" to the investigation.

He said the decision of the lead investigator, Captain Teresa Spanton, to not question eyewitnesses because she thought they would lie or to interview highly relevant witness was "frankly startling".

Reporting restrictions remained in force until the conclusion of the final court-martial featuring two of the defendants from the first trial but at the eleventh hour, it was also dropped.

In response to the allegations, an Army spokesperson said:

"We care about our soldiers above all else and do everything we can to ensure they live and train in a safe and secure environment. That is why as soon as these allegations were made an investigation was launched.

Despite the outcome, we will consider carefully whether any internal disciplinary action is necessary.

Given this ruling, the Service Prosecuting Authority and the Royal Military Police will be conducting a review to ensure that lessons are learned."

Read more - BBC NEWS

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