Sex assault inquiry at army college

12/08/10  The Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
12/08/10 The Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

An investigation has been launched at Harrogate’s Army Foundation College after reports of sexual assaults involving a vacuum cleaner.

A source has told national newspapers, including The Sun and the Daily Mail, that four teenagers were attacked in a “beasting” by fellow soldiers.

The 16 and 17-year-old victims were treated for shock, the source said, after the alleged attack by a 20-strong gang.

“It is feared a twisted initiation game got out of control as the young squaddies all aged below 18, ‘egged each other on’,” reported The Sun newspaper.

A “beasting” is an informal army punishment which usually involves making young recruits undergo extreme exercise.

The source said: “All junior soldiers were called back to barracks from a weekend off. A staff sergeant told them four trainees had been assaulted and brutalised. It was serious.

“Apparently a Hoover was involved. It’s horrifying and the Army are taking it very seriously.”

In 2007, an investigation was launched at Catterick Garrison after a Parachute Regiment recruit was allegedly filmed being sexually assaulted. Since that time the Army has tried to clamp down on bullying within its ranks.

John Topping, on Twitter, said there was a “fine line” between bullying and beasting, and that it needed a zero tolerance approach.

“Beasting will always be part of Army culture, the problem is the extent that individuals go to,” added a Twitter user called Hippo Rugby. “A ‘beasting’ was the term used for a gym session where you were run ragged by the staff, not bullying or assault!”’

An Army spokesman has confirmed that allegations of sexual assault were made against some young soldiers.

“The matter is subject to a Special Investigation Branch (SIB) investigation and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment further whilst this is ongoing,” he said. “All those who are found to fall short of the Army’s high standards or who are found to have committed an offence under the Armed Forces Act are dealt with administratively (up to and including discharge) or through the discipline process, as appropriate.”