Hundreds of cases of child ‘systematic’ sexual abuse in the MoD cadets were covered up by officials, according to investigations by BBC Panorama.
To date, more than £2million has been paid by the MoD to silence survivors of abuse that occurred in the cadets.
It’s believed that more than 350 cadets, aged 12-18, were subjected to sexual abuse between 2012 and 2017, of which 282 were referred to the police.
The systematic failings have been compared to likes of Jimmy Saville and the Catholic Church, scandals.
The BBC’s seven-month investigations highlighted a pattern of abuse at the hands of a number of different cadet leaders in Glasgow, Birmingham and Hertfordshire.
By turning people’s attention to abuse and the vulnerable survivors of it, awareness will be raised so that recognising signs of abuse and, most importantly, reporting suspicions to authorities will bring about cultural changes that will better safeguarding those who are vulnerable.
Viewers witnessed shocking accounts made by former cadets, which revealed the horrific, systemic abuse they were subjected to such a young and vulnerable age. The BBC spoke to several men who were abused by Commanding Officers John Fitzpatrick, Alan Waters and Brian Leonard.
Decades have passed since the life-changing events took place, with their abusers not facing justice until very recently. One evaded justice altogether.
“You Are Trained to Follow Orders”
Speaking of his terrifying experiences with Brian Leonard, one survivor of abuse, Martin, told the BBC that he was 12 when he was "systematically abused and raped repeatedly over many years”.
Martin said: "The thing was it was so blatantly obvious, it was almost as if it was hidden in full sight."
BBC Panorama’s investigations discovered that MoD officials dissuaded victims from reporting allegations to the police. Overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the cadets is one of the UK's largest youth bodies with 130,000 members.
How Could The Law do More to Help?
This is a clear-cut example of why a mandatory reporting law is essential in safeguarding against abuse. Implementing this legislation would mean, by law, that officials in a body such as the MoD would be obliged to share this information with the police so that an investigation can take place into any alleged abuse.
Sex abuse in Britain’s cadet forces was not one isolated incident. According to Freedom of Information requests, in the last five years alone, 363 sexual abuse allegations - both non-recent and recent - have been made across the UK for the Army, Air and Sea Cadets.
Of these, 282 cases have been referred to the police and 99 instructors have been dismissed as a result of claims against them.
Without mandatory reporting in place, the MoD’s vague proclamation of “robust procedures in place to protect cadets” is not entirely reassuring given the scale of this abuse, which until now has not been uncovered.
What Protections Are in Place?
Procedures currently in place include background checks on all Cadet Force Adult Volunteers before they are given a position involving a duty of care, including sole charge and responsible leadership of cadets. These checks are carried out every five years.
The BBC should be commended for bringing this shocking news to public attention. By turning people’s attention to abuse and the vulnerable survivors of it, awareness will be raised so that recognising signs of abuse and, most importantly, reporting suspicions to authorities will bring about cultural changes that will better safeguarding those who are vulnerable.
It is with immense bravery that the former cadets waived anonymity to share their stories with the BBC so that others know they are not alone, that help and justice is available, and so that future generations can be protected.
We hope that this will encourage other survivors of abuse to step forward and speak to the police.
We act for serving members of the armed forces who have also been subjected to sexual abuse. Unfortunately this means the problem could be far more widespread than the cadets.
The abuse lawyers at Slater and Gordon offer a free and completely confidential consultation to anyone affected by sexual abuse. Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.
Kim Harrison is a principal lawyer specialising in child abuse claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.