Red Arrows: Women plied with alcohol, treated like property and harassed for sex, report says

They are meant to be the pride of Britain, but a report into the Red Arrows has exposed a culture of sexism, bullying and harassment, as ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

The Red Arrows created a “hostile, degrading and humiliating” environment for women, where they were plied with alcohol, treated like property and harassed for sex, a report has concluded.

A culture of bullying, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour was “widespread and normalised” in the RAF display team – with women feeling forced to form groups known as “shark watch” to protect themselves at social events.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton said he was "appalled" by the findings and directed his apology to "three women" who complained to his predecessor.

An RAF spokesman confirmed that evidence of possible criminal behaviour was passed to the service police, but they were unable to gather sufficient evidence to begin prosecutions.

The non-statutory inquiry, launched in 2021, found examples dating back to 2017 of team members flashing their genitals, several extra-marital affairs and one case of criminal battery.

The report added that it was highly likely women had to deal with being hounded for sex, unwanted physical contact, and derogatory comments about their appearance.

The Red Arrows pictured at Scampton Airshow. Credit: PA

In a statement on Wednesday, Sir Knighton said: “I want first to say that I am sorry and offer my unreserved apologies to any individuals that were subjected to unacceptable behaviours during their association with the Red Arrows, particularly the three women who felt they had no option but to raise their complaints directly with my predecessor."

He added: "The situation was compounded by a ‘bystander culture’, meaning people did not challenge what was happening.

“I was appalled when I read the investigations’ findings.

"The behaviour of a minority of individuals has harmed the Squadron’s reputation and that of the Royal Air Force. Like my predecessor, I am intent on rebuilding public trust in one of our highest profile units. I know that the current team is working hard to do just that."

The report found female personnel feared “detrimental treatment” if they rejected unwanted advances and believed raising a formal complaint would lead them to be seen as “over sensitive” or a “typical woman”.

Women who made complaints also said they felt the need to limit the amount of alcohol they drank and modify what they chose to wear to “reduce the risk” of being harassed.

The actions of male personnel were dismissed by comments such as “he followed her around like a lovesick puppy”, and “I thought they were in a relationship”.

Since the report into the findings, action - including dismissal - has been taken against a number of individuals in the force.

The leadership and crews of the Red Arrows is now very different since the period covered by the investigations, according to Sir Knighton.

He added: " I have confidence in the command and people of the current Squadron."

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