The BBC Panorama programme has revealed evidence of repeated “cover ups of historical abuse in Britain’s Cadet Forces.”
The Cadets are one of the UK’s largest youth bodies and are overseen by the Ministry of Defence. It has approximately 130,000 members.
Victims have disclosed that Senior Cadet Leaders covered up complaints of sexual abuse and “pressurised” families against reporting their complaints to the Police.
Panorama conducted a seven month investigation focusing mainly on a pattern of historical sexual abuse conducted by a number of Cadet Leaders in Hertfordshire, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Alan Waters a Commanding Officer in Hertfordshire was investigated. Tony, a victim, was interviewed and stated that he joined the Cheshunt Sea Cadets in Hertfordshire in 1979. Whilst on a weekend trip away he said, “he woke to find his commanding officer Alan Waters at his bedside. I looked down and I was exposed… There was no doubt in my mind that he was touching me, no doubt in my mind whatsoever.”
Tony told his parents who were visited by two Officers; they were dissuaded from reporting their allegations to the Police and were reassured that Waters would be moved from looking after children. No action was taken against Waters and in fact he was moved to a division in North London where he was put in charge of ten Sea Cadet Units.
Waters was convicted of sex abuse in India in 2006 and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register. Despite this until March 2017 he held the title of Honorary Secretary of HMS President Retired Officers Association.
Martin is a victim who gave evidence against Brian Leonard who was a Commanding Officer at Tennal Grange Cadet base in Birmingham. Martin was 12 years old when he suffered abuse. He told Panorama, “You are trained to follow orders and you are trained to respect the officers and do as they tell you. That includes having to lie on the floor on a dirty blanket and just lie there and… take it like a man.” He describes the abuse as,” The thing was it was so blatantly obvious, it was almost as if it was hidden in full sight.”
Panorama interviewed 10 more people who suffered abuse by Leonard, who died in 1996. A girlfriend of one of the victims stated that she threated to report Leonard in 1987, however, she was pressurised not to go to the Police and that told that Leonard would be investigated. No investigation of Leonard ever took place.
Joe joined the Glasgow Highlanders Army Cadets in 1988 when he was 11 years old. He told Panorama that his Commanding Officer was John Fitzpatrick and that on four occasions he woke up to find Fitzpatrick sexually assaulting him. He said that Fitzpatrick, “would invite cadets to his flat, ply them with alcohol and sit them in front of pornographic films before bedtime. I mean real hard-core stuff that I’ve never seen since I was in that guy’s company…Images that have stuck in my mind to this day… if anybody had put images like that near my kids, I’d want to kill them.”
At the time Joe was suffering abuse Gordon another Cadet instructor had received a complaint about Fitzpatrick from another boy. Gordon defied the Cadets and reported the matter to the Police. The case went to trial and Fitzpatrick was found not guilty and he returned to his post of Commanding Officer. Last year Fitzpatrick was charged with lewd and libidinous behaviour against Joe and three other boys. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.
In the last five years 363 sexual abuse allegations have been made across the UK for the Army, Air and Sea Cadets. 282 cases have been referred to the police and 99 volunteers have been dismissed.
Gabrielle Shaw Chief Executive of The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) said,” the figures obtained by Panorama indicated that people were now more confident about coming forward to report abuse. The onus is now on institutions such as the armed forces to deal fully and promptly with reported allegations.”
The Marine Society and Sea Cadets (MSSC) has apologised,”unreservedly for any hurt in regard to the case of Alan Waters and said what had happened was not reflective of our organisation today. We now have a zero tolerance protocol and a specialist team to enforce our policies and provide support.”
The Ministry of Defence reassured Panorama that, “all adults who work with children undergo mandatory security and background checks, rigorous disclosure procedures and regular safeguard training. We encourage anyone who has been a victim or knows someone who has to report it to the police.”
Jordans Solicitors represent individuals who have been abused as children or teenagers whilst participating in organisations. Where a person is give responsibility of leading others by an organisation and that person abuses their position and commits an act of assault or abuse a claim may be possible. We would urge anyone affected to report their allegations to the Police and contact us to pursue a civil claim.