Harrogate 'abuse': What the teenage army recruits told the court martial

During the court martial, the board heard from 10 recruits who attended the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
File photo of junior soldiers at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.File photo of junior soldiers at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
File photo of junior soldiers at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

Here is a summary of the evidence from five of them:

Joe Carroll

Mr Carroll, who has since left the Army, described seeing soldiers thrown to the ground by instructors in the hangar where they were sleeping but did not report it.

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"We got told it was all part of the training and that's what's supposed to happen and just to get us psyched up and ready for it," he said.

"It was my platoon commander who said I shouldn't be frightened about speaking up about what happened."

Mr Carroll said he spoke to an SIB officer in March last year about not giving evidence.

"It was four-and-a-half years ago. I am now out of the Army and I just wanted to forget it and when I was given this court date I said I didn't want to do it. I just wanted to forget about it," he said.

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Simon Reevell, defending Acting Sergeant Steven Duncan, said Mr Carroll had accepted the discrepancies between his statement and evidence.

"There are two ways that information that is not accurate has got into your statement," Mr Reevell said.

"The first is, when you made your statement, the police officer was suggesting things to you and you agreed with them.

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"The other way it could have happened is that, for whatever reason, you gave information that was not accurate.

"Which of these two do you think would explain the inaccuracies in your statement?"

Mr Carroll replied: "The first one."

Jamie Benjafield

Mr Benjafield, who was medically discharged last year, claimed he was assaulted as he ran between heaven and hell.

He said he saw Staff Sergeant Brian Crawford spit in the face of two other recruits, as well as his own.

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"He would scream in your face, saying abusive stuff. He said to me 'I am going to rape your baby' and he waited a few seconds and he spat in my face," he said.

He said he did not report the alleged assaults to his superiors.

"At the time we thought what they were doing was part of the training. I was expecting it to be tough but nothing like it was."

Mr Benjafield accepted in his witness statement that he never mentioned Sgt Crawford allegedly saying: "I am going to rape your baby."

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Joe Van den Akker

Mr Van den Akker, who has since left The Rifles, claimed: "I was forced into making one (statement) in Catterick by the platoon staff in Catterick.

"They forced us to give statements to the RMP due to safeguarding as we were under 18.

"I gave one. Later I changed it and withdrew it because if I ended up in court it would so far down the line that it would be unfair to try and make people remember."

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Mr Van den Akker said an instructor, whom he could not identify, used his fingers to open his mouth before putting animal manure in.

He also said he was crawling through water when his head was pushed under the water.

Asked why he did not report it, he replied: "Just because I didn't think anything of it. I just thought the Army is that sort of nature, it was natural to happen."

Under cross-examination he said he tried to withdraw his statement as he could only remember snippets but alleged the SIB gave him "abuse and harassment".

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"I thought it was unfair to get people to give evidence on something that happened four years ago with just a quick read of their statement on the day," he added.

Private Jake Tebburt-Gilbert

Pte Tebburt-Gilbert, a member of the Royal Anglian Regiment, said he was not wearing his glasses at the time so did not see the alleged abuse.

He said his head was pushed under water but did not know who by.

Describing an incident where he was allegedly punched in the face by Sergeant Mark Graham, he said: "From what I remember, I was being quite clumsy going under the fence and my bayonet was pointing towards the directing staff, Sgt Graham.

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"For his own safety, so that he wouldn't be stabbed by the end of my bayonet, he pushed me away with an open palm of his hand."

Guardsman Matthew Talbot

Guardsman Talbot, of the Coldstream Guards, said he was approached two or three times by investigators before making a statement as he did not want to speak about it.

In a second statement, he said: "I no longer wish to pursue a formal complaint about the things I previously mentioned. I would prefer my original statement to be used for information purposes only."

Guardsman Talbot agreed that the officers suggested names to him during his interview, saying things like "Did you see such and such?".

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"It wasn't really a case of if you didn't want to be a part of it you could say no," he said.

"That was how it was put to me - that I'd be doing a disservice to future recruits and there could be an alternative motive proven as to why I'd chosen not to say anything."

Simon Reevell, representing Sgt Graham, said that sounded like a threat.

Guardsman Talbot replied: "Yeah, it did kind of intimidate me into coming forward with it."

He added: "It did feel like there was quite a lot of pressure put on your shoulders to come forward and do the right thing. There was no way of saying no. Your choice was removed."