Ex-soldier sues Ministry of Defence for alleged failure to tackle bullying

Former army private Joseph McCabe says he tried to kill himself five times after receiving death threats and constant abuse

A former British private is suing the Ministry of Defence over allegations the army allowed severe bullying which led to him attempting to take his own life five times.

said that he received death threats and was stabbed in the leg at the height of constant abuse centred on his stutter but that officers laughed off the threats and no one was punished.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while on tour in Iraq someone held a knife to his throat and told him: “You’ve got until the end of the tour to kill yourself. If not, accidents happen.”

Requests to transfer out of his regiment were denied with no reasons given and psychiatrists to whom he was sent after five attempts to take his own life on camp said there was nothing wrong with him.

He is taking civil legal action against the Ministry of Defence for its alleged failure to act and is appealing against a decision to deny him financial compensation.

McCabe told the programme: “I’m still having nightmares. I’m still having flashbacks. If I could I would lock myself up in a box and just hide away. But if I do that it’s like I’m letting those people in the army win so I have forced myself to take up a new career, to rebuild my life.”

The Ministry of Defence said: “Whilst we can’t comment on individual cases, we can be clear that the armed forces have a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse.

“All allegations will be fully investigated either by the civil or the military police and appropriate action will be taken.”

Official figures recently showed one in 10 military personnel claim to have been the victim of “discrimination, harassment or bullying in a service environment” in the last year – a rise of 25% on the previous 12 months.

The release of the latest survey of morale intensified pressure for an independent ombudsman to be given responsibility for investigating claims.

A former colonel, Lincoln Jupp, who commanded the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in Afghanistan in 2011, said that “the clock is ticking” for the army to show it can deal properly with the issue internally.

He suggested the increase in cases was down to successful education campaigns which had encouraged more reporting but accepted too few were being properly dealt with.

“The armed forces are coming to terms with the fact that it has got to change and so are probably behind the curve and have got to catch up,” he told Today.

“The clock is ticking on the armed forces to get its own house in order because there are too many incidences and too many complaints which don’t appear to be being dealt with quickly enough.

“The challenge in terms of applying the right standard of behaviour is for every layer of the chain of command to do their bit.”

Susan Atkins, the Service Complaints Commissioner, is in talks with …read more    

Afghan civilian casualties rose in 2013 as foreign troops headed home

UN figures show 7% rise in civilian deaths to 3,000, taking total toll to 14,000 in year Cameron declared ‘mission accomplished’

The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan climbed last year, the UN said, even as foreign troops headed home by the thousand and the prime minister, David Cameron, declared “mission accomplished” in the country.

There was a sharp rise in casualties from battles between Afghan government and Taliban forces, the report on the protection of civilians said, and it was the deadliest year for women and children in nearly half a decade.

“Armed conflict took an unrelenting toll on Afghan civilians in 2013,” the top UN envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, said in a statement. “More ground engagements led to more civilians being killed and injured in their homes and communities from crossfire.”

The 7% rise in the number of civilians killed, to nearly 3,000, was just below the record level of deaths in 2011. The overall toll from more than a decade of fighting is now more than 14,000.

There was a slight fall in deaths the previous year, but UN officials had warned that was due to a particularly harsh winter in 2012 hindering the Taliban’s ability to mount attacks rather than any security improvement. They said the latest figures were consistent with longer-term trends.

Overall insurgents were responsible for three-quarters of the casualties, and the UN called on them in particular to rein in the effect of worsening violence.

Taliban attacks on mullahs and mosques accused of supporting the government tripled, and targeted killings of others accused of ties to Kabul, like election workers, tribal elders and judicial officials, rose.

The UN warned that these attacks are against international law, and called on the insurgents to enforce their own code on civilian casualties.

But the report also said the government needs to do more to limit civilian casualties at the hands of its soldiers and police, and to limit abuses within the security forces.

The fighting is having an effect beyond deaths and injuries. Many children are being squeezed out of school by commanders who requisition the buildings for military bases, with seven school occupations reported in 2013.

The UN also reported several dozen cases of arson, intimidation, homemade bombs, raids and ground fighting that interrupted education at schools around the country.

The rising intensity of the conflict is adding fast to the Afghan war wounded as well as the dead. The total number wounded was up nearly a fifth to 5,656, higher than injuries in 2011 and a grim new record for the country.

International forces were only responsible for 3% of deaths and injuries, the report said. They killed 147 people and injured 114, and deaths from airstrikes were down by about 50%.

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