Bullying and harassment are crimes and there is a real need for victims to be protected, so that they are encouraged to come forward and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace can be stamped out. This is just as important for service personnel as it is for civilians.
The head of the Army, General Sir Nicholas Carter, has promised to crack down on bullying and sexual harassment, and to bring the values and standards of the Armed Forces in line with those in the civilian world.
Our Ahmed Al-Nahhas was interviewed by British Forces Television in response to these proposals:
Click here to watch video.
The Criminal Justice (Armed Forces Code of Practice for Victims of Crime) Regulations 2015 (the ‘Code’) came into force on 16 November 2015 and it is hoped that this will help shift the focus to the protection of victims of crime.
The Code mirrors similar changes made to civilian law. But will it work and does it provide the sort of protection that service personnel deserve?
The Code applies to victims of any crime, not just bullying and harassment, and includes service personnel and their families:
“Victims of crime should be treated in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner without discrimination of any kind. They should receive appropriate support to help them, as far as possible, to cope and recover and be protected from re-victimisation”.
If you are a victim, you can rely on the protection in the Code. It defines a “victim” as:
- a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence; or
- a close bereaved relative of a person whose death was caused by a criminal offence and who has suffered harm as a result of that person’s death.
The Code also identifies victims who should have “enhanced entitlements”. You might fall under this enhanced category if you are:
- a victim of the most serious crime;
- a persistently targeted victim; and/or
- a vulnerable or intimidated victim.
The Code sets the standard of support and services that should be provided to victims and their families by agents of the MoD, which include:
- A Commanding Officer;
- The Service Police; and
- The Service Prosecuting Authority.
The types of services you can expect to receive as a victim include:
- Victim and witness information leaflets;
- Contact details for victim support services;
- An assessment of your specific needs;
- The right to make a statement about how the crime has affected you;
- Regular updates on the investigation; and
- Support for your attendance at trial.
Special investigatory measures will also be made available to you if you fall in the enhanced victim category:
- Where possible, the same person will conduct all interviews;
- If you are a victim of sexual violence, gender-based violence, or domestic violence, you will be offered the opportunity to have a person of the same sex conduct the interview;
- Interviews will be carried out by or through trained professionals;
- Interviews will be carried out in premises designed or adapted for that purpose.
The duty of care
It is yet to be seen if the Code will have any positive impact on the way that victims of crime are supported.
The MoD has a duty of care towards service personnel, and this includes the duty to make sure that complaints are properly investigated and that victims are not subjected to further stress and harm. If the MoD fails to follow the Code, a court may take this failing into account.
This is an important step in the right direction. As with most rules and regulations, however, the Code will only be effective if it is followed and enforced properly. This will take a change in culture. Victims need to be given respect, time and resources. Investigators need to manage complaints sensitively and quickly.