Soldier drinking alcohol

Rape Case Judge: Forces Need To Tackle Drinking Problem

A military judge says more needs to be done by the Armed Forces to address alcohol abuse because it can lead to sex offences...

Soldier drinking alcohol

A military judge says more needs to be done by the Armed Forces to address alcohol abuse because it can lead to sex offences.

It comes as a board of senior officers lambasted a British Army officer for "embarrassing" the service as they found him not guilty of the rape of a subordinate.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Tomkins was cleared of the single count of rape against the woman after a UN meeting in an African hotel.

Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said:

"I would like to put it on record that too many offences occur because of the abuse of alcohol, more needs to be done by the services to address this issue."

Ahmed Al-Nahhas, Partner in the military claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said:

“Alcohol can be part and parcel of life in the Forces but as this case demonstrates, it blurs the lines and creates situations of real doubt and concern. This case is worrying because the Defendant was a superior and in a position of authority. Whatever way you look at it, it was an abuse of power.”

A board of seven Army officers took two hours to acquit Lt Col Tomkins, of the Rifles regiment.

The 49-year-old had told Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire, that he denied the offence and said the sex had been consensual.

Brigadier Paul Tennant, the president of the board, said:

"Despite unanimously and overwhelmingly reaching a finding of not guilty, we have been similarly united in our corporate embarrassment by the conduct of the defendant."

"We as commissioned officers feel strongly that Lt Col Tomkins' behaviour, even by his own account, fell wholly and demonstrably short of what we would expect of an officer of his rank and experience.

"This failure goes well beyond the fact of his infidelity."

The defendant, based at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, admitted that he had been "flirting" with the complainant when he gave her a neck massage in the hotel bar.

He added that they had each drunk four or five glasses of red wine during dinner that evening and afterwards he drank a vodka and tonic and she drank a gin and tonic before they went up to her room to prepare a presentation for their work.

He said: "She said she had a sore neck as I gave her neck a massage, she enjoyed it, she leaned back into me as I did it."

Lt Col Tomkins said when they began working on her laptop in her hotel room, the complainant said she was "hot and sweaty".

He said:

"As a joke, I said 'We could do it naked of course'. It was smutty, it was possibly more of its moment."

Lt Col Tomkins added: "This wasn't a long-term romance, this was two people who met one night, had an enjoyable night and ended up having sex."

The complainant had claimed she had been too drunk to consent to the sex.

In an unusual step, the military held the first part of the case to hear prosecution witnesses at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland in the US.

As the verdict was announced, Lt Col Tomkins cried with relief and was supported by his solicitor.