Bullying, harassment and racism complaints soar in the Armed Forces

Complaints of bullying, harassment, racism and sexism in the Armed Forces have leapt 50 per cent in a year, a report revealed yesterday.

Complaints of bullying, harassment, racism and sexism in the Armed Forces have leapt 50 per cent in a year, a report revealed yesterday.

The rise comes despite a crackdown on intimidation following the mysterious deaths of four Army recruits at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey.

A military watchdog said officers were failing to give soldiers, sailors and airmen who reported victimisation ‘justice or fair treatment’.… Read more

Cutting services, funding war

Symon Hill looks at how Armed Forces Day serves the political agenda of a government at war.

Symon Hill looks at how Armed Forces Day serves the political agenda of a government at war.

If I’d had any doubts about the real nature of Armed Forces Day, they would have been dispelled yesterday morning as I watched Sky News while eating breakfast. The Prime Minister had said that he wants the public to back the armed forces “more loudly and more proudly”, and Sky News certainly fell into line. Repeated pictures of marching troops were interspersed with interviews with politicians and generals telling us what a great job they do. Unlike last year, when Sky News briefly interviewed me about my objections to Armed Forces Day, there was not even a pretence of balance in yesterday’s coverage. No dissenting voices were heard.

One of the few advantages of this blatant display was that the real purpose of the Day became clearer and at one point, was stated explicitly. A military spokesperson flashed onto the screen to tell us that one of the purposes of the Day was to help the British public to understand why British troops are in Afghanistan.… Read more

Report into military veterans in prison

An inquiry into former armed service personnel in prison has found no evidence that having served for your country makes veterans more likely to end up in prison than civilians.

But the Howard League for Penal Reform report did find military veterans are twice as likely to become convicted sex offenders than members of the general public and that veterans are more likely to commit violent offences.

An inquiry into former armed service personnel in prison has found no evidence that having served for your country makes veterans more likely to end up in prison than civilians.

But the Howard League for Penal Reform report did find military veterans are twice as likely to become convicted sex offenders than members of the general public and that veterans are more likely to commit violent offences.

Sir John Nutting QC, chairman of the inquiry, said he had “no idea” why former servicemen went on to commit sex offences and called for further research to look into any causes.

“It ought to be remembered that servicemen, especially those who are likely to fight in the front line, have to be trained to be effective in the use of violence,” the report found.

“Inside the forces, this violence is controlled and regulated.… Read more

Ex-military more likely to be jailed for violent and sexual offences

Veterans in both the US and UK are more likely to serve prison sentences for violent and sexual offences than those in the civilian population.

Veterans in both the US and UK are more likely to serve prison sentences for violent and sexual offences than those in the civilian population.

The findings emerged as part of the Howard League for Penal Reform inquiry which also found that veterans were less likely to go prison.

The briefing ‘Leave No Veteran Behind’ follows a visit to the USA and is part of Howard League’s inquiry into former armed service personnel in prison, chaired by Sir John Nutting QC, which aims to uncover why veterans enter the penal system and will make recommendations to the government about how to prevent offending.

The inquiry found that veterans are less likely to end up in prison. In England and Wales, civilians are thought to be 43 per cent more likely to end up in prison, and in the USA, veterans are less than half as likely to be in prison as other adult males.

However veterans are more likely to be serving sentences for violent offences. Among State prisoners, 57 per cent of veterans were categorised as ‘violent offenders’, compared to 47 per cent of non-veterans.… Read more

Teachers reject ‘Army propaganda’

Teachers have voted to oppose military recruitment activities in schools if they employ “misleading propaganda”.

Teachers have voted to oppose military recruitment activities in schools if they employ “misleading propaganda”.

Young people must be given a true picture of Army life, not a “marketised version”, the National Union of Teachers conference heard.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) denies actively recruiting in schools but says it does visit to raise awareness when invited in by head teachers.

Some teachers complain the Army uses sophisticated methods of recruitment.

Paul McGarr, a teacher from east London, said only when recruiting materials gave a true picture of war would he welcome them into his school.… Read more

Britain’s own child soldiers

A third of army recruits are under 18. Is it right to target the young and the underachieving poor?

What first attracted Michael Lyons to a career in the armed forces was an advertisement he spotted as a teenager, depicting the Royal Navy delivering humanitarian aid. Lyons, now 25, is beginning a seven-month term in military detention after being found guilty earlier this week of wilful disobedience of a lawful order. He was also demoted and dismissed from the navy, where he had served since 2005 as a medical assistant submariner.

After refusing rifle training because of moral objections to his deployment in Afghanistan, Lyons’s case was the first to be heard on grounds of conscientious objection in over a decade. Because his concerns were broadly political – stemming, he said, from the WikiLeaks revelations – rather than religious, there was minimal precedent for the decision. (There was, of course, a well-established tradition of conscientious objectors in the last two world wars, with thousands of British men, including my own Quaker grandfather, granted exemptions on condition of “alternative service”.)

Perhaps it was simply the case that Lyons, who enlisted at 19, grew up. He is not the first, nor will he be the last, young man to enter the forces with a naive or partial view of all this commitment entails and then suffer the consequences.

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US peace activist to speak in UK on challenging military activities in schools

Oskar Castro, a prominent peace activist from the U.S. and Director of the organisation Military Families Speak Out, will be speaking in London, Coventry and Edinburgh from 9 to 14 July.

Oskar Castro, a prominent peace activist from the U.S. and Director of the organisation Military Families Speak Out, will be speaking in London, Coventry and Edinburgh from 9 to 14 July.

Castro was previously Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s Youth and Militarism Program, which seeks to reduce the influence of the military in schools, to provide young people with alternatives to military service and to empower them to become peacemakers within their communities. He has also worked with young people of color and within public education.

The speaking tour has been organised by ForcesWatch, a UK organisation that raises awareness, and campaigns on, issues of ethical concern and the armed forces. The events will launch the Military Out of Schools campaign.

The meetings will look at initiatives to tackle military involvement in public education in the U.S. and what can be learned for challenging the presence of the armed forces in U.K. schools and colleges.

Also speaking at the events will be Ben Griffin, ex SAS, who left the UK armed forces in 2005; David Gee, author of ‘Informed Choice: Armed forces recruitment practice in the UK’; and, School Students Against War have been active, and successful, in challenging the military in their schools and colleges.… Read more

“A coward and a malingerer”

Megan Graham looks into modern day conscientious objection in the armed forces.

Megan Graham looks into modern day conscientious objection in the armed forces.

This time two years ago, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street asking Gordon Brown to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan immediately. Glenton, from York, was facing a preliminary court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan after a tour of duty there, going absent without leave from the Army for over two years and attending a number of anti-war rallies. He wrote that “the war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk, far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country. Britain has no business there.” At the time, Glenton was the only known serving soldier in the Army to publicly express a moral objection to the presence of the British armed forces in Afghanistan.

Conscientious objection in the UK armed forces is a complex and little-known concept, and one which has attracted controversy in the past. As all involvement in the armed forces in this country is voluntary, many servicemen and women, as well as the general public, assume that conscientious objection must be a thing of the past, a bulwark against conscription for which a voluntary military system has no requirement.… Read more

Dalston Army Showroom Closes

We’re celebrating after the closure of the army showroom in the Kingsland shopping centre. We’ve been campaigning against the centre for two years.

We’re celebrating after the closure of the army showroom in the Kingsland shopping centre. We’ve been campaigning against the centre for two years.

When the centre opened we were horrified that it used video games and fake hand guns to suggest that the military was a “fun” occupation. In an area like Hackney with high unemployment we were appalled that young people were being conned like this. And, with Hackney’s gun crime problem, it was completely wrong to suggest that violence was a solution to anyone’s problems.

We quickly organised protests at the showroom – in one of the first, we occupied the showroom and forced it to close temporarily. We won support from Labour councillors, trade unionists and Turkish community organisations, among others. And we organised a well-attended Stop the War public meeting, at which a councillor for the ward with the showroom in it spoke.

Now the centre has shut down. The army say it is “closed for refurbishment” because of a leaking pipe – but it looks like it’s shut for good.

Everyone who was part of the campaign can feel proud.Read more

Navy medic sentenced to seven months in military correction centre for disobeying orders

A Royal Navy medic has been sentenced to seven months’ detention in a military correction facility after being found guilty of disobeying orders by refusing to attend rifle training because of his “moral objection” to bearing arms and the war in Afghanistan.

A Royal Navy medic has been sentenced to seven months’ detention in a military correction facility after being found guilty of disobeying orders by refusing to attend rifle training because of his “moral objection” to bearing arms and the war in Afghanistan.

Leading Medical Assistant Michael Lyons denied the offence at the court martial trial at Portsmouth Naval Base.

He was also demoted to the rank of able seaman and dismissed from the service.

His supporters stood up and applauded as he was marched from the court.

The court martial heard that Lyons, 25, from Plymouth, Devon, had been issued with his order to deploy to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in May last year.

He then applied through his superior officer to be considered as a conscientious objector in August.

But this was refused a week before he was due to attend the SA80 service rifle training at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on September 20.

On that day, he reported to Warrant Officer Robert Bainbridge and stated that he could not start the course because he had a “moral objection to bearing arms” and asked to be “re-rolled for non-combative duties”, leading him to be charged with disobeying a lawful order.… Read more