Lawyer calls for inquiry into Royal Military Police after Harrogate army investigation collapses

Failures by the Royal Military Police to properly investigate allegations of abuse against teenage Army recruits could be the tip of the iceberg for other inquiries, according to a lawyer.

File photo of the Army Foundation College at Harrogate.
File photo of the Army Foundation College at Harrogate.

Case into abuse claims of Harrogate army recruits collapses amid claims of bungled investigationLewis Cherry, a solicitor who specialises in defending soldiers at courts martial, said what had emerged during the trial of 10 instructors from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate was "absolutely appalling" and raised questions about how other high-profile military investigations were being run.

The RMP took a "policy decision" to ignore evidence that might undermine its case and the officer in charge, Captain Teresa Spanton, did not question eyewitnesses because she believed they would lie in their statements.

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"When I heard what Capt Spanton had to say even I didn't believe it could be that bad," Mr Cherry said.

"When they are saying they are making a policy decision to deliberately breach the codes of practice and breach the Attorney General's guidelines, even I couldn't believe it could be that bad.

"Capt Spanton is the officer who took the flak for what came but it was a policy decision not just done by her but approved by those above her.

Harrogate 'abuse': What the teenage army recruits told the court martial"More importantly, approved by those above her in 2014 and still acceptable to them in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

"That's the horror of where this will go. I have got other cases and I am looking at them and going 'Hang on a second, there seems to be a problem in other places...'

"Who are the investigators? Have we got the same team? My problem with this is that Capt Spanton was the officer in the case in 2014 in Catterick but her oversight would have been Major X in York or Colonel Y in Bulford.

"Have they looked at this, approved it and given the nod to other ones in other places? Where does it run?

"I have never found anything that has been as badly done as this. This is so absolutely appalling.

"I am normally a bit cynical about it but this time I am loss for words. This was a policy approved on high.

"The case was subjected to management checks from higher up and probably right up to the commanding officer of the SIB would be my guess. I would be astonished if it was any lower than that."

Mr Cherry said Capt Spanton's superiors would be the officers looking over Operation Northmoor - the Royal Military Police investigation into complaints of wrongdoing by British forces in Afghanistan.

Ten beautiful English Heritage spots you must visit in Yorkshire"Capt Spanton didn't do this on her own, not at her level. It must have been done from somebody (else)," he said.

"I can't say 'Here's definitive proof', all I can say is that it starts to unfurl and where else does it go?

"Not only was this policy running in 2014, it was allowed to keep running until 2018 and absolutely nobody has called a halt. No supervisor, no management checks, nobody has come to this at any point.

"People have changed in the management of this and nobody has looked at this at any stage. Nobody has stopped or questioned it.

"If people in senior positions in the police four years ago - and now they would have all been promoted and moved on - thought it was acceptable to run that as a policy then, how far has it gone now?

"That's an angle that really worries me considerably."

Mr Cherry said the RMP ignored all the normal practices during the Harrogate investigation.

"This is deliberately improper. A policy decision was taken to ignore the Attorney General's guidelines and to ignore the codes of practice," he said.

"That's not poor. Poor would be where a police officer was trying his best but was not very good.

"Here they are deliberately getting it wrong, they are looking the opposite way. They are only looking for their guilt, not their innocence.

"They are not an organisation known for its philosophical thinking and looking back and making analysis.

"They don't do that, it's just not their way. Failing to look at all reasonable lines of inquiry that goes on all the time, as it's inconvenient for them."

Mr Cherry added: "I just don't know where it is going to go. From where I am sitting I've had my doubts about them for many years but I couldn't believe it was this bad. It has never been proved to me that it is this bad.

"Those managing the RMP investigations over those years must themselves now be investigated."