Child abuse was ‘rife’ in cadet corps
A new child abuse scandal was revealed today with details of hundreds of alleged sexual abuse cases within military cadet corps and of historic cases that had been covered up by senior officers.
One unit commander investigated for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy stayed within the cadets for a further 23 years, while another commanding officer who was the subject of complaints of sexual abuse was dealt with internally and went on to offend again.
The Marine Society and Sea Cadets issued at unreserved apology for abuse by two of its officers and said its safeguarding procedures were now much tighter. The Ministry of Defence has so far paid out over £2 million to victims of the abuse.
David McClenaghan, partner with the law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, who represented victims with Rebecca Sheriff, another solicitor at the firm, described the abuse as rife. “For several years now, I have regularly advised and acted for clients who have suffered abuse at the hands of cadet leaders,” he said. “Strikingly, the abuse has not been isolated to one cadet group but has occurred throughout the UK. It is my belief that many sexual offenders will have secured positions within the cadets and committed sexual offences against a large number of young cadets.”
McClenaghan praised the cadets who had come forward: “I have no doubt that their courage in speaking about their experiences will give strength to others to come forward and tell their stories, and ultimately hold perpetrators of abuse and the MoD to account.”
The cases were revealed by BBC One’s Panorama, which named three perpetrators of sexual abuse at cadet units in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, Glasgow and Birmingham.
Using freedom of information requests, it also found that in the past five years there have been 363 sex abuse allegations in cadet corps, of which 201 were in Army cadet, 134 in Air cadet and 28 in sea cadet corps. Of these 282 cases were referred to police.
In this period 99 instructors were dismissed from cadet units, from 62 from Army, 9 from Air and 28 from Sea corps.
The Marine Society and Sea Cadets said: “The charity unreservedly apologises for any hurt or anger felt in regard to these two cases. They are not reflective of our organisation today. We now have a zero tolerance protocol and a specialist team to enforce our policies and provide support.
“We insist on compulsory training for volunteers, and DBS [vetting] checks for all working directly with youngsters, supported by a 24/7 incident reporting line (displayed in all units), promotion of the NSPCC Childline number and a whistle blowing policy.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it was “reviewing cases of non-recent abuse to determine whether they were handled correctly and to identify any further necessary action”.