Lewd jokes were 'Carry On' humour, Army corporal says

Corporal Stewart "Spike" Milligan said he had not intended to intimidate Corporal Leah Mates when he spoke her name while pretending to masturbate in a communal tent while on duty in Kosovo. He told the tribunal that he was re-enacting a scene from the film When Harry Met Sally.

Cpl Mates is claiming £686,000 for 43 allegations of sexual discrimination at an employment tribunal in Southampton. The 30-year-old, from Calne, Wiltshire has told the hearing that she felt suicidal because of the alleged harassment and intends to leave the Army.

Cpl Mates has alleged that, while she was serving as a signaller in Kosovo, Cpl Milligan, her superior, said her name while masturbatingin a tent shared with her and about seven other male soldiers.

Cpl Milligan said he had not intended to offend Cpl Mates and believed she had gone along with the joke. He said: "When we had all gone to bed, I was being silly by acting out a scene from When Harry Met Sally. We were having a laugh, nobody complained about my actions. I was pretending to masturbate and calling out silly things.

"It was just banter. I distinctly remember she was laughing along with the rest of us. I understand now I was making her uncomfortable but she didn't ask me to stop."

He added that Cpl Mates had made comments during the incident but said he believed she had only been playing along. He said: "She was joking along with it by saying 'Oh shut up, oh, oh'. If she had complained straight away, I would have stopped. I took it as a 'Oh behave', a Carry On Camping kind of 'Oh behave'."

Cpl Milligan admitted under cross-examination by Cpl Mates' solicitor, John McKenzie, that he would not have made the joke if there had only been men in the tent. In a statement read to the tribunal, Cpl Milligan also admitted he used Cpl Mates' first name during the incident. He said: "If it had been a tent full of blokes and I had called out their names, they would have beaten the shit out of me."

He said he had received equal opportunities training but had only taken full awareness of it in 2000 after Cpl Mates complained about this incident.

Cpl Mates, who earns £27,000 a year, has made a range of allegations against Army personnel, from comments about the size of her breasts to lewd graffiti about her. Part of the evidence will be heard in private as it refers to periods when she was deployed to operate with the special forces in Northern Ireland.

Lieutenant Emma Fawcett, who was the commanding officer of Cpl Mates' unit at the time in Kosovo, said she felt the masturbation incident had been dealt with when Cpl Mates accepted a verbal apology from Cpl Milligan.

She said she sought advice from her superior officer before giving Cpl Mates the options of either making a formal complaint or dealing with it informally by way of the apology. The Ministry of Defence denies all the allegations.

The hearing continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test