One of the largest inquiries into the alleged abuse of teenage Army recruits in Britain has collapsed after a 'seriously flawed' investigation by the Royal Military Police.
Sixteen instructors at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, were accused of slapping and punching 28 recruits.
A judge branded the three-year police probe "seriously flawed" as he halted the first of three court martials amid problems of missing evidence and claims that witnesses were forced to make statements.
The investigation had considered complaints from a total of 40 recruits about 30 instructors - which led to the prosecution of 16 of them, all sergeants and corporals.
The allegations centred on how recruits, aged 16 and 17, were treated at training camp in Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, in 2014.
Recruits claimed they were slapped or punched in the face, spat at, grabbed by the throat, had their faces submerged in mud or were ordered to eat animal manure.
The courts martial collapsed after eight days when the prosecution offered no evidence in 24 of the 31 charges faced by the first 10 defendants - meaning five were acquitted and walked free from court.
The trial of the remaining five instructors continued for another day until Assistant Judge Advocate General Alan Large stayed proceedings, ruling they could not get a fair trial.