MOD delays in bullying and harassment probe like ‘a second injury’ | Bolt Burdon Kemp MOD delays in bullying and harassment probe like ‘a second injury’ | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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MOD delays in bullying and harassment probe like ‘a second injury’

A Royal Navy whistleblower who claims she suffered sexual harassment and abuse onboard a UK nuclear submarine is still waiting for results of an investigation 18 months on.

Sophie Brook raised the alarm in October 2022, sparking an internal inquiry into the elite Submarine Service.

Ms Brook, who could have become the UK’s first female submarine captain had she not quit the Navy, was told a report was “imminent” last summer.

But still nothing has been published, leaving her facing what she describes as “a second injury”.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common theme within the Ministry of Defence. There is a real issue with systemic toxic behaviour and bullying and harassment allegations have soared since 2019. This is leading to further whistleblowing of treatment, not only in the Royal Navy, but across all the military services.

The #MeToo movement has brought global awareness of a culture which has tolerated sexual abuse, harassment and rape culture all too readily in previous years and has sought to create pathways for healing, justice and action. Unfortunately, it seems the MOD does not have an appropriate or adequate system in place to hear these inquiries within a timely manner.

This can leave personnel waiting for months, even years for a resolution, extending the period of trauma and eroding trust in the system. It also discourages others from coming forward and reporting unacceptable behaviour.

An MOD spokesperson said it did not tolerate “abuse, bullying or discrimination of any kind” and has introduced changes “to improve the experience” for everyone in the MoD, such as enhancing “reporting mechanisms, diversity and inclusion training, and increased access to support”.

The spokesperson added: “We actively encourage any personnel who believe they have experienced or witnessed unacceptable behaviour to report it.

“All allegations of unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously and are thoroughly investigated, with swift action being taken where necessary.”

However, if it is taking years to investigate complaints such as those made by Ms Brook, the MOD needs a fundamental shift in its approach to dealing with complaints robustly if it is to effectively dismantle service people’s fears of coming forward or being silenced/ignored.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp we represent service personnel and veterans who have been bullied, harassed and assaulted during their service. If you are considering a claim and would like some confidential advice, please contact our team.

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