MoD surrenders to Wren in sex harassment case battle with Wren th Wren wins sex harassment case as MoD backs

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The Independent Online
A former Wren who was sexually harassed by male colleagues yesterday won her claim of constructive dismissal against the Navy, after the Ministry of Defence admitted liability.

Lesley Morris, 23, had told an industrial tribunal how she took a paracetamol overdose and was discharged from the Navy as "temperamentally unsuitable" in 1995 after four years of constant harassment.

The tribunal heard that a subsequent application to join the police had been turned down because of the psychiatric treatment she had received.

Ms Morris told the tribunal in Manchester that during the four years she had been forced to mimic oral sex, had her breasts grabbed and was bullied to the point where she was terrified of going back to sea.

Dr David Enoch, a consultant psychiatrist, told the tribunal that Ms Morris was mentally scarred from what she had been through and showed signs of post-traumatic depressive disorder.

"The constant sexual harassment and bullying were a massive precipitant in her depression," he said.

"In my view it will take a long time for it to fade and will be a source of vulnerability for the rest of her life."

Ms Morris, who joined the Navy at the age of 17, had told the tribunal of a catalogue of "horrific" incidents of sexual harassment.

The former Wren, from Shotton, near Chester, said the male sailors constantly insulted her and her female colleagues, calling them "sluts, slags, splits and turtles".

"It broke my heart to leave the Navy. It was all I ever wanted to do but I was terrified of going back to sea," said Ms Morris.

The first incident that made her question her career, she said, was when a chef put his foot between her legs while she was cleaning the floor.

"He didn't seem to think he was doing anything wrong, and when I reported it he was only told off," she said.

The tribunal was told that her ambition was to become a physical training instructor and she had gone to HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Cornwall, to work on rope-climbing and pole-vaulting. "I was the only woman in the gym and I was given impossible tasks to do.

"As punishment, I was made to jump in the swimming pool in my uniform of white T-shirt, gym skirt, socks and pumps, which became transparent when wet," she said.

"I was asked questions like, "Are you cold, because your nipples are erect?"

She claimed that on three occasions her breasts had been grabbed by a leading physical training instructor while he said "honk, honk".

She was also forced to stand on a table and mime a woman giving a man oral sex.

"I felt totally humiliated and was shaking like a leaf afterwards," she said. "I lost my confidence and I thought, why doesn't anyone stop this?"

After the decision Ms Morris, who is now waiting to find out the level of damages, said she was "chuffed to pieces" with the result.

"It has been hell but I'm glad that I've been able to put my story across and say what happened to me.

"I really hope that other Wrens now do the same thing. I hope I have given them the courage to do it too," she said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said last night that despite its admission of liability it was unable to comment until the tribunal had officially reached a verdict, which was expected today.