Wigston’s response to inappropriate behaviour in the Red Arrows
This week, Air Chief Marshall Sir Mike Wigston told a defence select committee hearing that he was “appalled” by inappropriate behaviour in the Red Arrows and “frustrated” it had happened on his watch.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Wigston was the originator of the Wigston Review into inappropriate behaviours in the military in 2019, which was then the springboard for a 2021 Defence Sub-Committee Report “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life”.
It was reported in August 2022 that members of the Red Arrows were being investigated over accusations including misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment. Since then, it has been confirmed that two pilots have been dismissed and in November 2022, it was announced that a Red Arrows’ Commander had been removed from his post, while allegations of inappropriate conduct were investigated.
In response to a question from Sarah Atherton MP asking what went wrong with the Red Arrows, Air Chief Marshall Sir Wigston said:
“As soon as I became aware of those reports, we reached out to the people who we felt were the likely victims…as soon as we saw all the warning signs we immediately went into a Non Statutory Inquiry…”
He said anyone who finds themselves a victim of inappropriate behaviour should know that they are part of a service “ready and willing to act as swiftly as we can”.
“Inappropriate behaviours have consequences. For me, it sends a very important signal to the rest of the service that there is no part of the service that is on such a pedestal, which is so privileged that we won’t go and investigate allegations of this nature…”
While the results of Non Statutory Inquiry have not been published, it was reported that more than 40 personnel, including young female recruits, provided 250 hours of evidence to the inquiry, describing amongst other things sexual harassment, a drinking culture, threats that complainants would be kicked out, and a toxic work environment.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Wigston discussed some of the measures brought in in recent years to tackle inappropriate behaviour and provide better victim care within the military, including the new Defence Serious Crime Unit and the “zero tolerance” policy towards bullying and harassment, which was introduced last year.
It remains to be seen whether these new measures will result in positive changes.
If you are a Service person or veteran and have suffered from a toxic environment at work, including harassment, bullying or sexual crime, then you should seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights.