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Hundreds of young army recruits are still suffering from physical beatings and intimidation at the hands of their instructors, despite a series of fatalities at training camps in recent years and amid allegations that soldiers were being bullied to death.
A series of previously unpublicised reports obtained by this newspaper highlight growing concern surrounding the issue this weekend. They include a new annual survey of recruits by the Ministry of Defence that reveals that hundreds report having been beaten or intimidated by their superiors. More than one in 10 of all trainee soldiers – what the report describes as a "notable minority" – claimed to have been unfairly or badly treated and, of these, more than one in five said they had been picked on continually.
According to the report, made available to MPs just over a week ago, less than three-quarters of recruits felt that training was always conducted without sexual or racial harassment. And nearly a quarter did not feel able to take their concerns to a person in authority.
Another, unpublished, report obtained this weekend sheds light on the extent of abuse being suffered by service personnel. The MoD's first annual report into bullying and harassment states that there were more than 600 complaints recorded in the year to 2007. The document, which up to now has only been circulated within the military, says that the official complaints hint at a far bigger problem: "Research shows that many more of you experience bullying or harassment than the number of complaints recorded." It adds that people may be reluctant to seek help "due to a fear of victimisation".