Man sacked from RAF for being gay calls for military pension after cancer diagnosis

Simon Hinchley-Robson, 58, says the government is "dragging their feet". Credit: PA Images

A man sacked from the RAF for being gay in the 1980s is calling on the UK Government to reinstate his military pension after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Simon Hinchley-Robson, 58, says the government is "dragging their feet" and believes compensation or his pension should be sorted "sooner rather than later".

In 1986 Mr Hinchley-Robson, who was a 21-year-old cook at RAF Brawdy in west Wales, was found out to be gay by his superiors.

After being subjected to four days of interrogation, he was sacked from the military because of his sexuality. He has never received an apology or his armed forces pension.

Gay and lesbian citizens have only been allowed to serve openly in the armed forces since 2000.

Evidence relating to Mr Hinchley-Robson's ordeal was read out by his MP, Clive Efford in Parliament earlier this year. In response, ministers advised that he contact the Ministry of Defence to make a claim for his pension.

Mr Hinchley-Robson, who now lives in Blackheath, south-east London, with his husband Dave, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May.

"The day that (cancer diagnosis) happened, both me and Dave, we just fell to pieces. It was as if our whole world had just fell in on us.

"The first thing that I wanted to do was sort of get my house in order, in case it went the wrong way.

"If, for instance, my treatment didn't work, then I want to make sure that my next of kin and my family were provided for, and they need to be provided for by my pension.

"If I was in the RAF now and I was diagnosed with this and I was discharged, they would give me my payout and make sure my pension was there. So what's the difference?"

An independent review of the treatment of LGBT veterans, chaired by Lord Etherton, the first openly gay judge in the senior courts, will run until May next year.

In January, Eltham MP Clive Efford shared what happened to Mr Hinchley-Robson after he became ill and requested a test for AIDs while serving in the RAF.

Labour MP Clive Efford says the UK Government must compensate his constituent. Credit: PA Images

The request to have a test was seen as an admission that he was gay, and when he returned to his base after spending time in a civilian hospital, Mr Hinchley-Robson was arrested by RAF police.

He was strip-searched repeatedly, and denied food and sleep over a period of four days. When he refused to name any person in any of the services that he had some sort of relationship with, he was assaulted.

Mr Efford says what happened to his constituent was "a form of torture for being gay".

The Labour MP says the Government must get on with the review into how LGBT veterans had been treated, with the aim of paying them compensation.

"It is unacceptable, the slowness of the response from the Government on issues of this kind.

"This is urgent for anyone in these circumstances, justice delayed is justice denied, and Simon clearly has a very powerful story to tell.

"The Government really should not be dragging its feet in responding to someone in his situation, regardless of his illness, but his illness obviously adds more urgency to it."

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Craig Jones, deputy chief executive of LGBT forces charity Fighting with Pride, said he hoped the independent review could "quickly" bring support for Mr Hinchley-Robson and others like him.

"Simon's treatment at the point he was in the armed forces was truly shocking, and like many veterans from that era, what happened to Simon has had a profound effect throughout his life.

"He is unwell and we have a great deal of sympathy for his circumstances, and we hope that the independent review can quickly bring hope and support to people like Simon."

An MoD spokesperson said: "While we cannot comment on the details of individual cases, we do not retrospectively pay pensions for employment time that was not served.

"The historic treatment of LGBT personnel in the armed forces was wrong and we are actively looking at the best way to ensure all members of our veterans and serving community feel supported, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

"We are committed to ensuring that every veteran is valued for their service, including those veterans who were affected by the pre-2000 ban."