British Army chief condemns ‘unacceptable’ behavior after sex assault claims

Posted at 8:47 PM, Apr 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-06 20:47:26-04
06 APR 19 11:53 ET

(CNN) — The chief of the British Army has attacked the “downright unacceptable” behavior of soldiers after recent allegations — including claims of sexual assault — raised questions over troops’ conduct.

“This hasn’t been a good week for the Army — it’s damaged our reputation,” Chief of the General Staff Mark Carleton-Smith acknowledged in an extraordinary video statement released on Saturday.

It came hours after a report in The Sun newspaper alleged that a female soldier was sexually abused while she slept by six army members. Six soldiers have been arrested, the Press Association reported.

Separately, on Wednesday, the Army announced it had opened an investigation after a video apparently showing serving soldiers firing handguns at a picture of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn went viral.

“Over the last few days, a series of exceptionally serious allegations have been made against soldiers currently serving in the British Army,” Carleton-Smith said in the rare public intervention, adding the claims demonstrate “indiscipline that is wildly at odds with the values and the standards that represent the fabric of not just our Army, but the nation’s Army.”

“Not only is it downright acceptable, it’s illegal,” he added. “This is everyone’s business. This is about who we are as professional soldiers.”

The incidents are under active investigation by the police, he confirmed.

“The British soldier is known for many things — stoicism, a sense of honor and duty, courage, a sense of humor, and an honest sense of decency.” Carleton-Smith went on. “Any behavior that falls short of that high standard, we cannot and we will not tolerate.”

Gavin Williamson, the UK’s Defence Secretary, earlier said he was “horrified” to hear of the sex abuse allegations. “There is no place for these kind of actions in the military and, if true, those involved must be dealt with,” he said, adding he had commissioned a review into inappropriate behavior in the military, “with a view to stamping it out.”

Williamson had called the Corbyn video “troubling” earlier in the week.

The video, initially sent on Snapchat and captioned, “Happy with that,” showed a number of soldiers shooting handguns at a printed-out picture of the opposition leader.

Corbyn said he was “shocked” by the footage, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesperson said it was “clearly unacceptable.”

“Let’s make sure that together we get this right and can take pride in who we are and what we represent,” Carleton-Smith concluded in his video statement. “We owe it to the country and we owe it to each other.”

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