Call for Lancashire servicewomen to give evidence about military life - including mistreatment

South Ribble’s MP is calling for current and former servicewomen to contribute to a parliamentary inquiry into their experience of life in the military.

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 10:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 12:37 pm

Katherine Fletcher has appealed for evidence to be provided to a committee which will focus on issues including bullying, harassment and sexual abuse.

It comes after defence secretary Ben Wallace - the MP for Wyre and Preston North - lifted a so-called “gagging order” which had prevented service personnel from speaking to parliamentarians.

However, any submissions to the special sub-group of the defence select committee which is conducting the inquiry can still be made anonymously and will not be shared with the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Sarah Atherton MP, chair of defence sub-committee, and South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher

MPs will focus in particular on how rape cases are investigated in the armed services. A report earlier this year by a retired senior judge recommended that military courts marshall should no longer have jurisdiction in cases where rape is alleged.

Out of 129 rape cases heard in the military courts over the past five years, just 13 resulted in a conviction, MOD figures show. That equates to a conviction rate of 10 percent, compared to up to 63 percent in civilian courts during the same period, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Katherine Fletcher said of the committee’s inquiry: “Lancashire has a proud military history and I encourage anyone, male or female, with military service and insights on this matter, to come forward and to give evidence to this committee. They want to hear from you.”

Evidence can be provided via an anonymised online form which can be found by searching, “Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life”. The closing date is 14th December at 5pm.

Sub-committee chair Sarah Atherton MP - the only female MP who is an ex-regular soldier - said: “These are some of the bravest women I know – putting their lives on the line to keep us all safe. It is vital that these women are given the platform they have, so far, been denied to speak about their experiences.

“I am thrilled that our forward-looking defence secretary has lifted the restrictions for the sub-committee.

“Our forces are stronger, richer and more capable when they are diverse. This is not only the right thing to do, but contributes directly to operational effectiveness, recruitment and retention.

“We need the right person for the right role and it is in no one’s interest to discourage women from applying or continuing to serve”.