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Liberty takes up case of hanged army policewoman - June-09-12
Source: The Times - Law
The civil rights group Liberty is fighting for a fresh inquest into the death of a military policewoman who hanged herself after accusing two colleagues of rape.
It has taken up the case of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement after The Times disclosed e-mails from the soldier saying that she was bullied by colleagues who said she was a liar.
A coroner recorded a suicide verdict. Liberty is to demand a fresh inquest with a jury to examine all the factors that led to the soldier’s death. Relatives fear that the Army failed in its duty to protect the distressed woman’s life.
Corporal Ellement was found hanged in her barracks in Bulford, Wiltshire, three days after her 30th birthday last year. She said she had been ostracised for accusing two colleagues of raping her when she was drunk. An in-house investigation by the Royal Military Police (RMP) failed to find enough evidence to bring charges.
The Times has discovered, through the Freedom of Information Act, that at least seven military policemen have been accused of rape since 2005. In two cases, they were accused of raping colleagues, although neither complaint resulted in trials. There are 1,666 men and 575 women in the RMP.
Liberty is writing to the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, requesting that the investigation into Corporal Ellement’s rape allegation should be reopened. It has noted the vulnerability of servicewomen to sexual assault; official research showed that 12.7 per cent suffered attacks during their service.
The campaign group will argue that:
• The inquest should have considered how traumatised Corporal Ellement would have been by the life-changing experience of alleged rape;
• The Army should have activated a Vulnerable Persons Conference;
• The inquest should have sought evidence from the military medical officer who signed her off work;
• Corporal Ellement’s claims that she was made to work for 80 hours a week, adding to the pressure on her mental health, should have been investigated;
• Relevant evidence should have been taken about bullying after she claimed she was called in to work on sick days and suffered bullying comments from colleagues on Facebook.
Liberty is to cite a landmark decision by the Supreme Court a month before Corporal Ellement’s inquest that the State has a positive duty to protect the lives of vulnerable people. In that case, judges ruled that a mental health authority was responsible for protecting a woman from committing suicide.
It is to argue that the Army should have provided Corporal Ellement with psychological care and support. As a serving soldier, she was subject to a large degree of control in her day-to-day life. When she woke, ate, worked and slept was decided by others. She would have been unable to quit her job without being declared “absent without leave”, risking imprisonment.
Liberty is applying to the High Court for a judicial review of the inquest on behalf of Corporal Ellement’s sisters, nephews and nieces, who come from a traditional forces family with generations of service. Its legal officer, Emma Norton, said: “The Human Rights Act may offer a way forward because Article 2, the right to life, suggests that the State needs to conduct a fuller investigation. Why should a soldier who committed her working life to service in the Army not benefit from that protection?
The Ministry of Defence expressed its sympathy for the family and said that it was aware of the application for a judicial review: “There is also an ongoing Royal Military Police investigation into allegations related to this case and it may in due course be subject to an internal Service Inquiry. It is therefore inappropriate to comment further.”
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