Royal Military Police formally apologises to family of late Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement for failing to properly investigate her allegation of rape

19 October 2016

The Royal Military Police (RMP) has formally apologised to the family of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement for failing to properly investigate the allegation of rape she made two years before taking her own life, following the threat of legal action by the family.

In a statement released today, the RMP – the Army’s internal police force – admits that “mistakes were made” in the investigation and that “Anne-Marie deserved better”.

Anne-Marie was an RMP police officer. In 2009, while serving in Germany, she alleged that she had been raped by two colleagues.

Despite the fact that all involved were RMP staff, her allegation was investigated by the RMP themselves. An Army prosecutor decided no charges would be brought – a decision that devastated Anne-Marie.

Sharon Hardy, Anne-Marie Ellement and Khristina Swain

Two years later, after suffering bullying – and what the Coroner at her inquest called “work related despair” – she took her own life.

Only when threatened by Liberty with legal action under the Human Rights Act – and after a lengthy struggle by Anne-Marie’s family – did the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and RMP agree to refer the case for a fresh, independent rape investigation.

This resulted in the prosecution and acquittal of two former soldiers earlier this year. Both the Director of Service Prosecutions and the judge at the trial said it had been right to bring the case – and that charges should have been brought when Anne-Marie was alive.

Today’s apology comes a fortnight after Prime Minister Theresa May and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon pledged to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights for all future conflicts – and after years of Government threats to remove the protections of the Human Rights Act from British troops serving overseas.

Background

Anne-Marie took her own life in her Wiltshire barracks in October 2011 at the age of 30. In March 2014, the Coroner in the second inquest into her death – again made possible only by the family using the Human Rights Act – ruled the mental effects of the alleged rape, workplace bullying and “work-related despair” all contributed to her suicide.

Anne-Marie’s family, represented by Liberty, simultaneously made several attempts to convince the MoD to facilitate a truly independent investigation into her rape allegations. This was repeatedly declined. After several internal reviews, the MoD claimed the original investigation conformed to “service standards”.

Only in 2013, after the family threatened legal action under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act – the right not to suffer inhuman or degrading treatment – did the MoD and RMP finally agree. This was carried out by the RAF Police and Bedfordshire Police, overseen by the Crown Prosecution Service.

In October 2015 – four years after Anne-Marie’s death – two soldiers were charged with her rape. Both men were acquitted in April 2016.

Anne-Marie deserved better

The RMP statement released today says: “It is now clear that mistakes were made in the original investigation, including in relation to decision making. As a result, aspects of the original investigation were unsatisfactory. […].

“Anne-Marie deserved better and for that the Royal Military Police apologises unreservedly to her family for those failings.

“In apologising to her family, the Royal Military Police and the wider Army pay tribute to them for the courage and determination that they have shown on behalf of Anne-Marie.”

Sharon Hardy, Anne-Marie’s sister, said: “Both the coroner at Anne-Marie’s inquest and the judge at her trial made strong criticisms of the conduct of the Royal Military Police men and women involved.

“I know that the RMP failed my sister and am glad that has finally been admitted. I acknowledge the apology offered today with a heavy heart – but it remains to be seen if they have in fact learnt any lessons.”

Khristina Swain, Anne-Marie’s sister, said: “I feel this apology has come a little late for our family and I’m disappointed we have had to ask for it – but we welcome it and are happy that they have realised they failed to properly protect my sister.

“The RMP let Anne-Marie down 100 per cent – please give her one last bit of respect and don’t fail others. Don’t let victims or families go through what our family went through. Not just the pain and grief – but having to fight just to get to the truth.”

Alexandra Barritt, Anne-Marie’s mum, said: “Anne-Marie was my beloved youngest daughter. No words can express how much I miss her. I will always be incredibly proud of all that she achieved in her life. I hope that the changes the Army have promised us will come about and be a lasting legacy for her.”

Emma Norton, Liberty’s Legal Director and solicitor for Anne-Marie’s family, said: “It is stories like Anne-Marie's that show exactly how important the Human Rights Act is for our soldiers and their families – and exactly why the Government and Ministry of Defence are so opposed to it.

“It was only the Human Rights Act that let Anne-Marie's sisters secure a fresh inquest, exposing the bullying she had suffered and leading to important reforms for crime victims in our Armed Forces. It was only the Act that let them secure a fresh, independent rape investigation.

“Without it, we wouldn't be here today – and the MoD would have been able to keep the awful truth of what happened to Anne-Marie firmly behind closed doors.”

Second-best justice for our troops

Today’s RMP statement reads: “It is vital that we learn the lessons of these events. The Royal Military Police has done so.”

However, in 2016 it remains lawful for:

  • A Commanding Officer in the Armed Forces to choose to investigate an allegation of sexual assault him or herself. There is no legal requirement – as there is for most other criminal offences – to refer the matter to the police.
  • Military police to investigate serious criminal offences including rape, sexual assault and other violent crime.

Liberty is campaigning for the Government to amend the law to end these practices and embed independence and fairness for our troops at the heart of the military justice system.

Contact: Liberty press office on 0207 378 3656, 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk