Bullying and Abuse

Discussion in 'The Quarterdeck' started by leej78, Nov 22, 2012.

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  1. In1996 I was fortunate enough to have been able to sit the entry examination forthe Royal Navy. I was even morefortunate to experience success with the entry examination and progress to theinterview stage of the entry process. However, the Chief Petty Officer whomconducted my interview felt I was not ready for an entry date. He accepted I had a strong desire to begin acareer in the Royal Navy but was not convinced of my readiness. He instructed me, or rather advised me, to continuewith my A-Levels studies, assuring me that gaining these qualification wouldgive me more career prospects within the Royal Navy. I followed his advice and my patience prevailed as the following year I repeated the interview process and was grantedan entry date to serve in Her Majesties Royal Navy, complete with A-Levels.

    As you can see I was following orders in the established chain of command before Iwas even required to. I followed theinstruction of a senior rating before even being under the employ of the Ministry of Defence in the Royal Navy. Clearly I could have completed my studies at A-Level and chosen to stay on the educational ladder and progressed on to university. I may well have chosen a different career path, maybe decided the Royal Navy didn’t want me, so I didn’t want them; but no, such was my desire to begin a career in the Royal Navy, as it had been since around the age of 8, I persevered and perseverance paid off as I took my first step on the ladder to a naval career.

    The navy life was definitely for me, it was every part of my being. I would forfeit travelling home to see family on weekend leave just so I could stay in the surroundings of naval life. I even had a Warfare Branch badge sewn on toa pair of my underwear. It was my life,not just a career.

    I project forward in time to early 1999. After enjoying a successful period of service onboard HMS Coventry, and having just passed the Operator Mechanic (First Class) course, I was billeted onto the Navigators Yeoman’s course at HMS Dryad. It was another opportunity, another string to my bow, another piece to the puzzle of my naval career. Needless to say I was raring to go.

    The enthusiasm I expressed for the course was brought to a resounding halt. For some reason the course instructor, PettyOfficer Y****, took an immediate disliking to me. From the very beginning of the course I wassubjected to mental and psychological abuse. This abuse was not shielded from my colleagues on the course, it wasconducted on a daily bases in the presence of them in the class room. In spite of the unwarranted abusive attitude projected onto me by Petty Officer Y****, I did my very best to maintain myconcentration and my commitment to completing the course and furthering mycareer. Unfortunately, such was the severity of the abuse, I was unsuccessful in my attempts to pass the coursesfinal examination. It was the first real failure of my naval career.

    Arrangementswere made for me to be entered onto the following course. I was filled with apprehension and worryabout the prospect of having to endure similar, if not identical treatment,when I returned to Petty Officer Y****’s place of instruction. However, being dedicated to furthering my career I decided to bury any feelings of apprehension and anxiety and attempted to re-face the course with the same enthusiasm and dedication I had shown in my career up to that point.

    Armed with my somewhat depleted enthusiasm, I was met once again with the abusive andbullying attitude of Petty Officer Y****. The torment lasted until the end of the course, which fortunately, I passed of the second attempt. Knowing that, unless there was some horrible situation I found myself drafted to thesame ship or establishment as Petty Officer Y****, I would not have to encounter him again I stepped forward with renewed vigour and attempted to rebuildmy damaged enthusiasm for my career. I was going back to sea, finally escaping the worst experience of my shortcareer.

    HMS Anglesey was to be my new home on the next step of my career. A new beginning you might say. A new beginning, which seemed as fresh and aswelcoming as my first day in the Royal Navy. A new beginning that was, until I met my new boss, the NavigationalOfficer, Lieutenant L*********.

    LieutenantL********* was a person much in the same mould as Petty Officer Y****. He subjected me to bullying, abuse andpsychological torture. Just when Ibelieved I could put my recent past experiences behind me, I was confrontedwith them again, only by a different perpetrator. I was filled with devastation. These new incidents of abuse where did not goun-noticed. They became apparent to mycolleagues, and also to other members of the Wardroom. The ships First-Lieutenant even went as far as reminding Lieutenant L********* of his obligations as far as conduct was concerned; something which I was grateful of and regretted, as I received a full backlash of Lieutenant L*********’s disliking to the conversation with the First-Lieutenant.

    Unableto take the pressure of the accumulated incident and abuse I had received fromboth Petty Officer Y**** and Lieutenant L*********, I make the decision toremove myself from any further possible harm. It is something I am fortunate to have been able to live to regret, but,on a period of leave I decided my only escape would be to take my own life. I took an overdose. Obviously the overdose was non-lethal, but all the same it was an overdose, something I felt I had to do, something I had been driven to do to escape any further abuse and torment. It was clear to see that even an interjection from the ships second-in-command could hold no bearing on the situation, so what other choice did I have?

    Myactions resulted in a lengthy period of sick leave. It was during this time that I found thecourage and strength to officially raise a complaint against Petty Officer Y**** and Lieutenant L*********. At this point my faith in any form of justice within the Royal Navy was shattered. Why would I believe I would receive any kindof support in light of my recent experiences? So it was to my surprise that my allegations were met with absolute sincerity with regards to their importance. As a consequence a full investigation was launched. I was visited by members of the RNP from HMSNelson in Portsmouth. The first visit focussed on me being interviewed and the second visit was so that I could provide a written statement witnessed by the RNP staff.

    A short time after the visit of the RNP staff I received a further visit. It seemed the allegations had taken a step upin severity as this time I was visited by RNP SIB staff. They interviewed me further based on a needfor extra information in order to further the investigation.

    As a result of the bullying and abuse, I was classified as Temperamentally Unfitfor service. So that was it, my navalcareer, something I had dreamed of since the age of 8, my one true ambition in life, was over. It could be said that Ishould have ignored the abusive treatment I endured, that I should have brushedit off, marked it down to experience and carried on regardless. However, if the bullying and abuse had not been present as a catalyst for what eventually happened to me, the possible recommendations to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ would never have been necessary.

    The investigation into my allegations was eventually completed. I received notification that both PettyOfficer Y**** and Lieutenant L********* had been reprimanded and warned oftheir future conduct. A justifiable punishment? Maybe so, for a first offence, if this was in fact a first offence for both of my abusers. Or maybe not. How is it justifiable when a person who had been so dedicated to a career in the Royal Naval service, loses that career, a career I should still be in, and makes a suicide attempt, all as a result of the inconsiderate and abusive actions of two senior members of Royal Navy personnel who just so happen to hold on to their careers and escape with a reprimand?

    You may be wondering why, as this all happened so long ago, am I bringing the details of my terrible experiences to your attention now. Well, in 2008, I was discussing the unfortunate incidents with a member of SSAFA. As part of the discussion it was recommended to me that I submit an application, via the Veterans Agency, for a War Pension. I took heed of this advice and made my application. Unfortunately myapplication was refused on the grounds that I had not been Medically Discharged,but rather as previously stated, classed as Temperamentally Unfit for service. Naturally this decision was more than a little disappointing to me, however, I chose to accept the decision and left it there.

    I jump forward in time again to earlier this year, when I came across the letterwhich informed me of the refusal to award me a War Pension. Seeing it again prompted me to think about howthe Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence are obligated to take care of its employees.

    My curiosity led me to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. At first I wasn’t convinced the Royal Navywould fall under such legislation, after all the Royal Navy is an armed forceexpected to encounter times of danger. Isought advice from the Veterans Agency hoping for some clarification andhonestly expecting to have my belief confirmed. However, my query had been passed on to Navy Command Headquarters who confirmedthat the Royal Navy is bound by legislation found in the Health and Safety atWork Act 1974. Imagine my surprise. Armed with my new found knowledge, I decidedto dig a little deeper. I took a look atthe legislation in the act, where upon I found this statement:

    “It shall be the duty ofevery employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable,
    the health,safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”


    Followingthis discovery, I referred back to the certificate notifying me of the refusalof a War Pension. I wasn’t quite surewhat I was looking for or hoping to find, just something to corroborate theabove statement I suppose. Anyway, Ifound this:

    “TheSecretary of State does not accept harassment as due to service.
    Bullying and harassment are not factors ofservice, but an act of an
    individual or more. Service may well be the setting but as the Secretary
    ofState stipulates it is not the cause.”

    Admittedly a fair comment, after all a person cannot be bullied bytheir place of work, only by individuals in the place of work. Having said that, the statement from theHealth and Safety at Work Act 1974 clearly confirms that the bullying I wassubjected to contravenes the legislation within in the ac because I was bulliedin the work place.Now, it may be argued that the Royal Navy is a very large employer witha vast number of service men and women spread out across shore establishmentsand ships across the fleet, and in that sense it is hard to maintain highstandards with regards to unfair treatment, bullying and abuse. However, the Secretary of State for Defence has taken on such a great task, as is shown on JSP 815 AnnexA – Secretary of State’sPolicy Statement part 1:

    “AsSecretary of State I am responsible for all safety[SUP]1 [/SUP]environmental
    protection (EP) and other sustainable matterswithin defence”

    Clearly a grandstatement, but all the same it is a statement which needs to be honoured, andthere is no reason for me to not feel aggrieved that this statement was notupheld and adhered to.I made the decision torefer my findings to the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. Admittedly my hopes were to have the decisionto refuse my application for a War Pension overturned. Why wouldn’t I? After all I had just discovered that theRoyal Navy were in fact bound by legislation in the Health and Safety at WorkAct 1974. I had high hopes. The corresponding reply didn’t meet with myhopes; however, it did offer confirmation that I was indeed considered to havebeen bullied during my service:

    It is accepted that you were bulliedand harassed during your Service,
    however, as was explained in the Certificate Refuseddecision, these
    arenot factors of Service but caused an act of one or more individuals.
    Servicemay have been the settingbut was not the cause.”

    Idon’t think I need to refer back to the Secretary of State’s statement from JSP815, but it clearly contradicts yet another statement from the ServicePersonnel and Veterans Agency. What didgive me a little confidence was that the letter included a statementacknowledging that I had in fact been bullied. How could it be possible for me to have been provided with an admittanceof my treatment and still not receive the justice I deserved over the loss ofmy career? I wish I had the answer, Ireally do.Iwasn’t deterred. I probably should havebeen, but I wasn’t. I had receivedanother setback, but it just served to install more determination within me. I had to keep going, so I did. I looked further into legislation set out inJSP’s. First of all I looked again atJSP 815. I came across a statement Ifelt to be relevant. It concerned the General Agreement Between The Ministry Of DefenceAnd The Health And Safety Executive:

    “Thisagreement:

    sets out the principles which apply tothe observance of health
    and safety legislation by MOD inrespect of members of the military,
    naval and air forces of the Crown, MODcivilian employees and others affected by MOD activities;”

    So, not only did I now know that the Royal Navy is bound by legislation set out in the Health andSafety at Work Act 1974, but also the MOD was bound by an agreement with theHealth and Safety Executive. I decidedto present this to the Health and Safety Executive. In spite of being party to this agreementwith the Ministry of Defence, the response was a little deflating. The basics of the reply, received from MrAlan McGiveron, were to explain the primary role of the Health and SafetyExecutive. The final statement made was:

    “Under the legislation we enforce, and due tothe length of time that has
    elapsed, we are unable to take this matter anyfurther.

    I appreciate this matter has caused you somedistress. I can only advise
    that you seek advice from a solicitor.”

    I was somewhat disappointed with the response. Why should it matter when the bullying and abuse occurred? Should it not be a matter of importancebecause it happened? Especially as I had confirmation that the bullying hadbeen acknowledged. It had never been my intention to seek legal advice since Ihad submitted my original War Pension application. Not just because it was not a financiallyviable option, but because I did not wish to bring any disrepute onto the Royal Navy. It may have left a clear devastating impact on me personally, but I still had an affinity with the Royal Navy. Now though, if I am honest, it has crossed mymind. Maybe a legal representative wouldbe the only clear way to achieve what is right. Regardless, it is not an option as it is still not economically viable.Never-the-less,another knock back was not going to stop me from at least digging further. So, my search went on and on. I found no more support in JSP 815, so Ichose to look elsewhere. Google was avery helpful tool. I discovered further support in JSP 375 Vol.2 leaflet 25:

    “The Secretary of State for Defence inHis Health and Safety policy statement makes clear his commitment to protecting the health, safety and welfare of all members of HM Forces and civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence. This commitment extends to allaspects ofoccupational health and safety including the effects of excessive pressureor stress”

    There was a further point of relevancein this statement, which again links back to the whole ‘service was the settingnot the cause’ explanation I was presented with:

    “The Ministry of Defenceaccepts that, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence, it has a duty to takereasonable care that employee’s health is not placed at risk throughexcessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way work is organised,the way people deal with others in the workplace, or from day to daydemands placed on its staff. The nature of the activities of the Departmentalso make it possible that some employees, will at some point, be subjectto traumatic incidents as a result of accidents or military operations.”

    Not only has the Secretary of State for Defence provided a statement declaring his responsibility for the safety and welfare ofmembers of HM Forces, but here the Ministry of Defence also acceptresponsibility on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence on the samematter. Again, an honourable statementon the part of the Minister and the Ministry, but it cannot be allowed toremain a mere statement. Thepoint of most relevance to myself from the above two statements is obviously: “theway people deal with others in the workplace,”. These two points alone are proof that the Secretary of State for Defence and the Ministry of Defenceclaim a duty of care to its employees and a responsibility to provide those employees with a safe working environment, a responsibility which in my case was not met. A dedication to responsibility such as this has to be honoured, and was it? No, it was not. Not only was this a failure to adhere to promises made as part of legislation, it was the breaking of a promise on a personal level, a promise to me as, at the time, a serving member of HM Forces.

    JSP 375 has a section on Health and Safety law. With this being a Joint Service Publication, I suppose it has no bearing on the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 with regards to its aspects and rules on overall employment safety. After all, Service law could not be applied to Health and Safety law for the general public, as is I believe, the relevance of which shall become apparent. Anyway,the statement, found on page 8 of the JSP is as follows:

    “ The law requires allemployers to manage their risks to health, safety andwelfare and defines the general duties that encompass how they mustmeet their overall duty of care. In essence these general duties call for employers to inform, instruct and train people,and to provide and maintain suitable systems of work, equipment,workplaces, processes and materials.”

    Now, I was bullied and abused, that has been accepted and acknowledged by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. The abuse occurred, that has been established. What should have prevented this abuse from happening is clearly outlined in the above statement. Had the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defencetaken on their responsibilities and chosen to correctly "inform,instruct and train” Petty Officer Y**** and Lieutenant L*********, theywould have known not to have acted in the way they did. It could be argued that, as individuals without adequate instruction, they did not know that what they were doing was wrong. I find this very doubtful. What full grown adult does not know that bullying and abuse of an individual is wrong? Regardless of my doubts it is still arguably possible. So just who was to blame, my abusers or the employers of my abusers?

    Furthermore to the above statement, in failing to"inform, instruct and train” a knock on effect was felt as the‘workplace’ was effected; after all I was bullied in the workplace.

    I have not received in-depth psychological testingto asses for the presence of PTSD, nor have I been to a war zone or beeninvolved in active conflict. However,despite these truths, my time of abuse has left me with scars. They may not be scars of heroic duty, or fromhaving acted beyond the requirements of service, but they are still scars,mental scars, and they were obtained as part of my service in the RoyalNavy. It seems that because of myexperiences and the circumstance of my discharge, I became just a number, ormore of an ex-service number, not even an ex-serviceman, a number. Is that right? Is that fair? I don’t think it is, but then again, my thoughts don’t matter, just asmy time in service to my country doesn’t.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  2. Saves time in the long run.
     
  3. This is the second time you've posted your life story and I still don't know what you're trying to achieve but sympathy comes beteween shit and syphilis in the dictionary.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Last time it was removed, I'm not looking for sympathy. My aim is to show other service personnel, past or present, that it is ok to speak up about bullying.....it shouldn't have to be endured!!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. removed last time as he named names now he has stared them out
     
  6. If what you say is true Leej78, there's something odd here. I was not medically discharged and like many others I was awarded a War Pension for incidents during service, some of which was operational. I have also met people who have War Pensions for incidents not connected with active service, such as accidents in training and one guy who suffers from the effects of a poisonous animal bite which happened whilst abroad. I suggest you have your case reviewed and examined by somebody legally qualified.
     
  7. Unfortunately not all of them.......
     
  8. No, he missed one if you read it, so we all know who the Lt is!
     
  9. So I did the right thing in shielding the names, didn't I? I don't think raising awareness on the subject is wrong.
     

  10. No he hasn't! The Lt's name is there in black and white.
     
  11. I missed one, honestly non- intentional. The person in question is no longer in Service.
     
  12. Err actually no you didn't you dick! Re-read your post
     
  13. Did I not just explain?
     

  14. Maybe we typed at the same time?

    Don't start. I have previous!
     
    • Like Like x 1

  15. Aye, a very sloppy piece of redaction if ever I saw one.
     
  16. heya everyone

    I am not a member of HM Forces

    on the subject of bullying and Harrasement
    I have been bullied thought out my life for one thing or another. I think and feel bullying in any shape or form is wrong and if you have been a victim in the forces then speak out and do not be a shamed because by speaking you may help someone out by making a stand.

    please DO NOT suffer in silence
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012

  17. I am in receipt of constant abuse on here and it has made me a much stronger person.
     
  18. Possibly, honest mistake.
     
  19. Think I've joined in on epic here, when's the London Premiere!
     
  20. This is my exact intention, to show people its ok to speak up!
     

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