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Navy servicewoman sues MoD over sex assault by Norfolk-based soldier

PUBLISHED: 17:51 03 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:36 05 February 2014

A navy sailor is suing the Ministry of Defence after she was sexually assaulted by a Norfolk-based soldier while they were guarding a captured terrorist in Afghanistan.

The woman, who is in her mid 20s but cannot be identified for legal reasons, claims that Cpl Christopher Yard groped her breasts and pestered her for sex while they were stationed at Camp Bastion.

Yard, a soldier with the Light Dragoons based at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, was tried for indecent assault last June by a court martial in Colchester.

He denied the charge, but was found guilty and sentenced to 120 days’ detention and demoted two ranks – a sentence which was reduced on appeal in August to 30 days’ detention and demotion by one rank, to lance corporal.

Now the victim is making a £50,000 compensation claim at an employment tribunal in Exeter.

The MoD is defending the case, saying the sailor did not properly comply with the military complaints procedure before issuing her claim.

At the time of the incident, the claimant was assigned with Yard to guard rogue Afghan policeman Zia Rahman, who had shot three British soldiers dead in July 2012.

In legal papers submitted to the tribunal, she says: “The sexual harassment involved physical touching and comments.

“I was unable to leave the room because of my guard duty responsibilities. In the end, I managed to fend him off and tried to distract him until my shift had ended.

“I was left very traumatised by the sexual assault. Cpl Yard was not moved from his station, so I was very afraid to have to work in relatively close proximity to him.

“I was not properly supported after the assault and this left me feeling very vulnerable.”

In his submission to the tribunal, Yard insists that he did not fondle the woman’s breast and that his “sexual touching was a fleeting brush over clothing.”

Under military rules, service personnel can only bring a compensation claim once they have exhausted the internal grievance process.

The claimant’s solicitor Lawrence Davies said the woman’s claim is a test case that will reveal how the military closes ranks by denying sexual harassment victims the chance to bring civil court actions.

He said: “The Armed Forces Regulations 2007 are being used to stifle sexual harassment claims and thereby cover them up to protect the reputation of the MoD.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Whilst we cannot comment on individual or ongoing cases, the Armed Forces have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse. All allegations will be thoroughly investigated, either by the civil or military police, and appropriate action will be taken.

“We recognise that it takes great courage for any individual to come forward and report a sexual offence and we have taken a number of steps to improve training and awareness to ensure that service personnel know how to report concerns and what support is available to them.”

The woman’s case is due to be heard in June.

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