Army chief blasts ‘downright unacceptable’ behaviour by troops following alleged sexual assault of teenage soldier

Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith sends a video message after allegations of sexual assault by soldiers Credit: British Army/PA

The military’s reputation has been damaged by claims of illegal and “downright unacceptable” conduct including an alleged sexual assault, the head of the British Army said.

Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith laid down the law to his troops in an extraordinary video message after six British Army troops were arrested over an alleged attack on a teenage female soldier.

The intervention by the Cabinet minister and the military top brass came after the Sun reported that six Army sports club members had been held over a serious sex attack on a sleeping 17-year-old female soldier.

The teenager is said to have told superiors she woke to find the men – one a staff sergeant – standing over her.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was left “horrified” by the claims and has launched a review of behaviour across the military.

He said: “There is no place for these kind of actions in the military and, if true, those involved must be dealt with.

“I have commissioned a review into inappropriate behaviour in the military with a view to stamping it out.”

The Chief of the General Staff said: “Over the last few days a series of exceptionally serious allegations have been made against soldiers currently serving in the British Army.

“All these allegations are being taken very seriously by the military chain of command and are now under active investigation by the police, which is exactly as it should be and what I expect.

“Because of that, it’s not appropriate for me to comment specifically any further on them.

“But I will say this: where serious allegations are proven against members of the Army, including allegations of a violent or sexual nature, it demonstrates indiscipline that is wildly at odds with the values and standards that represent the fabric of not just our army but the nation’s army, the British Army.

“Not only is it downright unacceptable, it is illegal and it stands in stark contrast with everything the British Army represents.”

The latest scandal comes after the Army faced criticism over a video showing paratroopers using a picture of Jeremy Corbyn for target practice.

The Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into the conduct of the personnel from 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, who were filmed in Kabul, Afghanistan, shooting at a picture of the Labour leader.

Gen Carleton-Smith said: “This hasn’t been a good week for the Army. It has damaged our reputation, which is exceptionally hard-earned and includes the sacrifice of our friends on the battlefield.

“We all belong to a national institution, something the country is proud of and rightly so – the best of British.

“And we are proud custodians of that reputation, which needs all of us – each and every one of us – to do better.”