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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss