A judge has severely criticised a culture of sexualised behaviour and heavy drinking within a Royal Military Police unit and censured two former soldiers for their treatment of a colleague who went on to kill herself after her claims that she had been raped were not properly investigated.
Former military policemen Jeremy Jones and Thomas Fulton, both 28, were cleared on Wednesday of raping their colleague Anne-Marie Ellement. During an eight-day court martial, the pair said they had taken part in what was described as a drunken “threesome” with Ellement before heading off to a nightclub. Fultonconceded he had called Ellement a “slag” and a “cunt”.
The judge Jeff Blackett, a former navy officer, said the pair’s conduct was disgraceful. He continued: “This is not a moral judgment – and I make no comment upon sexual practices involving more than two people – but the way you treated Anne-Marie after your encounter was extremely unpleasant.
“After engaging in sex you effectively discarded her while you decided to go off to town without a thought for how she might be feeling or how she might get back to her accommodation safely. And for Mr Fulton to call her those very unpleasant names, including the word slag, was truly dishonourable.
“You may have grown up … and I hope you will never act in such an appalling way again, but when you look back on what happened you must feel very ashamed.”
Blackett criticised the culture of the RMP at the Sennelager camp in 2009, when the incident happened. “We have heard much about drinking to excess, sexual relationships between colleagues, intention to go to places that were out of bounds in the local town,” he said.
He also criticised the length of time it had taken for the case to reach court. Addressing Ellement’s family directly, he said: “This case should have been heard five years ago and I apologise to you that it has taken so long to resolve this issue. The extreme delay … prejudiced the defendants, Anne-Marie and justice generally.”
During the court martial, the prosecution accused Jones and Fulton of using Ellement as a “plaything”. She was found naked apart from her cardigan, crying and apparently drunk in the early hours of a November night and claimed she had been raped.
The case was investigated at the time and discontinued. Ellement was moved back to Bulford camp in Wiltshire, where she took her own life in 2011, aged 30. At her inquest in Salisbury two years ago, the coroner said Ellement had been deeply and permanently affected by what had happened in Germany.
Her family continued to campaign for the case to be looked at again, and following an investigation by a civilian police force and RAF investigators, Jones and Fulton were brought before a court martial board almost seven years after the incident.
Speaking outside the military courts centre in Bulford, Ellement’s legal team and her family claimed there remained a highly sexualised culture in the army.
Their lawyer, Emma Norton, of the human rights group Liberty, said: “Sexualised culture is still a massive problem in the army. The judge took the very unusual step of making some very strong remarks about the two defendants and was very critical of their behaviour. I think it reflects a broader problem. It would be dishonest for anyone to suggest that this was an isolated incident. Lots of female soldiers are still reporting sexual harassment and assault.”
On the length of time it took for the case to reach court, Norton said: “Anne-Marie was entitled to have her allegations investigated while she was still alive. The history of this case, and how it took six long years for it to come to court, reveals grave deficiencies in the policies and practices of those responsible for investigating sexual offences committed against members of the armed forces.
“Had it not been for the tenacity and strength of Anne-Marie’s family and their willingness to challenge the extraordinary reluctance of the Ministry of Defence, the military police and the army prosecuting authority to investigate the allegations, this case would never have come to court.”
Fazit: Alkohol enthemmt nicht nur Soldaten.