Soldier demoted after affair loses sex discrimination case

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A soldier who was demoted after having an affair with a major has lost her claim for sexual discrimination against the Ministry of Defence.

A soldier who was demoted after having an affair with a major has lost her claim for sexual discrimination against the Ministry of Defence.

Warrant Officer Angela McConnell claimed that she was unfairly demoted from the King's Royal Hussars when her affair with Major Alastair Ross was exposed. Affairs within the ranks are against Army rules. She claimed her punishment had been a greater penalty than that given to the major, a married father with two children who was ordered to retire on full pension.

Mrs McConnell, 41, of West Lulworth, Dorset, was also unsuccessful in her claim that she had been harassed into having the affair. Her claim that she was threatened in a letter by the major was also unsuccessful.

The three-week employment tribunal in Southampton was told that Mrs McConnell had an affair with Major Ross for more than a year, including for eight months after disciplinary action was started. Her commanding officer in the King's Royal Hussars Regiment, based in Hampshire, was informed of the affair by her husband, George, a firefighter, who had bugged her car and home.

Mrs McConnell said she was unfairly treated when the affair was exposed because she was forced to remain in the regiment amid the rumours and gossip while Major Ross was transferred to another position.

But the tribunal was told that the decision had been made because Mrs McConnell was required to remain in post. Major Ross, who was asked to resign his commission, was able to claim a full pension. But if Mrs McConnell had been given the same punishment, instead of being demoted to corporal, she would not have been entitled to a full pension.

The tribunal was told that the first sexual liaison between the pair happened in the medals room of the officers' mess on 18 December 2001, during a Christmas party.

Mrs McConnell, who has two children, had claimed she participated in the affair because Major Rossput pressure on her. At the tribunal, he admitted to having the affair but denied intimidating her.

In the tribunal panel's summary of its decision, the chairman, Michael Kolanko, said that Mrs McConnell was a confident and experienced member of the King's Royal Hussars who was capable of refusing Major Ross's advances. The summary stated that there was no evidence that Mrs McConnell had been coerced into having an affair with him.

Mr Kolanko also criticised Major Ross, describing him and Mrs McConnell as accomplished liars. He said: "[Major Ross] exceeded his position of trust and had acted inappropriately in his discussions with junior ranks."

Mr Kolanko dismissed allegations against the Ministry of Defence that it did not treat both genders equally when dealing with matters of sexual harassment or discrimination. He said: "The King's Royal Hussars appears to have complied with the various equal opportunities obligations and requirements imposed upon them."

The tribunal panel also dismissed three specific allegations of discrimination. It ruled that it was not biased to make Mrs McConnell wear a crimson skirt as part of her uniform; it was fair not to have a prize for women in a regimental cross-country race because there was no similar prize for men; and a joke made at Mrs McConnell's expense was not malicious.

A spokeswoman for the tribunalsaid Mrs McConnell had the right to appeal.