Army instructors suspended in 'bullying' probe

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The Independent Online

The British military was plunged into another "bullying" controversy today as defence sources revealed five Army training instructors had been suspended.

Allegations of physical abuse and harassment were made public after an undercover investigation by the BBC at a training base in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

A military source told the Press Association three officers were suspended before they were made aware of the BBC programme.

But another two were suspended after the Ministry of Defence received further evidence from the BBC, the source said.

An MoD spokesman said: "We were already investigating the majority of the allegations."

The Government previously pledged to crack down on the bullying of recruits in the Army following the scandal at Deepcut, where four teenage soldiers died between 1995 and 2002, amid accusations of bullying and harassment.

Following the Undercover Soldier investigation by the BBC, the MoD said: "Bullying is absolutely unacceptable and fundamentally at odds with the Army's core values. We take all allegations of inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously and investigate thoroughly.

"We were already in the process of investigating several cases highlighted by the BBC and where allegations were new, we immediately launched further investigations.

"We are, however, unable to comment on the details of specific cases so that we do not prejudice ongoing legal processes.

"We have a duty of care to our people to make sure that they are prepared for operating in the harshest of environments and for the challenge of combat operations."

The latest scandal came to light after reporter Russell Sharp went undercover as an infantry recruit at Catterick for six months.

Geoff Gray, 45, whose son - also called Geoff - was one of the four privates who died in unexplained circumstances at Deepcut, said he believed the Army had "failed to learn their lessons".

Mr Gray, from Hackney, east London, said: "The Army says there is zero tolerance on bullying, but that clearly is not the case, even after a duty of care investigation.

"Our boys deserve the very best - they must feel extremely let down.

"I only hope these latest allegations really shake them up."