Two decade wait for review into treatment of LGBT veterans a 'national disgrace'

Full report by ITV Meridian's Christine Alsford

Veterans thrown out of the armed services because of their sexuality have said a review of their treatment announced today is welcome - but long overdue.

The Cabinet Office is setting up an independent panel that will hear the stories of those stripped of their jobs and military medals.

It will examine the impact - emotional and financial - on all those who lost their livelihoods and experienced shame and disgrace because of their dismissals. It will focus on three main areas, including access to veterans support services and proper recognition for LGBT veterans. 

Many veterans hope that they will then be offered mental health support and financial compensation including restoring pensions that were withdrawn.

Rules were changed in the year 2000 to allow gay and bisexual recruits to serve.

Kevin Bazeley worked out of Brize Norton in Oxfordshire in the late 80s and early 90s, as a Royal Air Force navigator

Royal Air Force navigator, Kevin Bazeley worked out of Brize Norton in Oxfordshire in the late 80s and early 90s, serving his country during first Gulf War.

When he lost his job as a flight lieutenant because of his sexuality and his income was cut by 80 per cent. 

He went from earning around £50,000 a year to having to retrain as an accounts assistant on a salary of £10,000.

He successfully took his case for compensation to the European Court of Human Rights but was paid only a "symbolic amount" in damages.

Kevin said he lost so much more too and suffered the fallout for years with damaged emotional wellbeing.

  • Kevin Bazeley, Veteran:

He said: "The Royal Air Force was the only career I ever wanted to have, so to have that suddenly stripped from me without warning for something that I had no control over was just crushing, totally humiliating.

"I was met and escorted off of an aircraft and taken off to the police station and it makes you feel very small and very unwanted.

"That whole process of my dismissal left a scar on me."

Kevin said: "We all came away traumas as a result of our dismissal and having that recognised now is very important - very important indeed. It's long long overdue - I mean 22 years since the ban being lifted - and that's just for the people being dismissed at that time. We are talking about veterans going back decades."

"I would like to see a personal apology from the Government to all of those veterans who lost their careers and their futures and their friendships, from the nation that they volunteered to serve."

Veteran Craig Jones is a former Lieutenant Commander who served in the Royal Navy

Veteran Craig Jones is a former Lieutenant Commander who served in the Royal Navy and has now set up a charity supporting military personnel thrown out of the armed services. 

He said it's a "national disgrace" that it's taken so long for today's announcement, when the past has taken its toll on so many. 

He said: "It was the loss of everything - it was quite literally a disgraceful end. If I had been caught I would have been marched down the gangway by two royal navy police officers, interrogated, arrested and sent to court martial which is and was as you can imagine such a devastating blow to so many people. I was very lucky not to be caught."

Craig said he welcomes the review, as it will "bring hope to a huge community of LGBT+ veterans, who quite frankly were treated disgracefully."

"The fact that it's taken 22 years to achieve is a great pity because in those 22 years, our LGBT+ veterans have continued to live with housing issues, poverty and health issues and the enduring shame of the way they left the armed forces."

  • Craig Jones, Fighting With Pride charity:

James Heappey MP, Armed Services Minister said: "The point of the review is to work out exactly what the impact, the cost has been and to make some recommendations about how to mitigate. The secretary of state has said sorry, I will say sorry. I think it's utterly appalling that people who had the courage to serve the country they love weren't also allowed to love the person they love."

Defence minister Leo Docherty said the review will ensure the Government learns from veterans' experiences.

Mr Docherty said: "While the modern military embraces the LGBT community, it is important that we learn from the experiences of LGBT veterans who were affected by the pre-2000 ban.

"This review will allow the voices of veterans to be heard and importantly will help us better tailor support to the community."

The Cabinet Office has said the review's chair will give further details on how veterans will be able to contribute to the review.