Commanding officers warned over bullying

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Commanding officers in the military will find their careers "on the line" if they fail to investigate complaints about bullying, harassment and discrimination from the ranks, the ombudsman for the armed forces warned yesterday. The Ministry of Defence needs to undertake a "step change" in dealing with grievances from military personnel, said Susan Atkins, the Service Complaints Commissioner.

"Currently the focus is on individual redress not organisational improvement. It needs to be both," she said. "A complaint needs to be on a commanding officer's dashboard – an indication that something needs to be investigated and, if necessary, fixed to ensure his or her team can perform smoothly."

Most complaints made to Dr Atkins came not from junior ranks. She said: "I have been contacted by officers at commanding officer level alleging bullying and harassment, unreasonable or inconsistent work demands." Presenting her first report, Dr Atkins said she had found a "genuine commitment by leaders of all three services to tackle and root out improper behaviour".

The Armed Forces minister Bob Ainsworth said the services were "100 per cent committed" to ensuring complaints were dealt with properly.