Sandhurst building 190219 CREDIT BFBS
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Changes in Sandhurst officer selection and training after inquiry into cadet's death

Sandhurst building 190219 CREDIT BFBS
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Trainers at Sandhurst are to be selected on the merit of their emotional intelligence following a damning report into the death of an officer cadet. 

They are also to receive training on avoiding inappropriate relationships with trainees, looking after their welfare and enforcing the college's alcohol policy.

These are some of 61 recommendations made by a military Service Inquiry into the death of Olivia Perks at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in 2019. 

"If you are pushing your people and expecting them to perform a match every day, then you are going to break them." 

It found a lack of communication and understanding of welfare procedure meant too little action was taken when Olivia attempted self-harm, was excessively drunk several times and had a relationship with a member of staff at the college.

The report recommended a review of the selection procedure of RMAS staff, both officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, and of the intensity of the 44-week commissioning course.

The panel reviewing what had led to Olivia's death detected that "changes to the command-and-control relationship governing RMAS, along with the hollowing out of the academy headquarters staff, has also had a detrimental effect on the 'Sandhurst experience'".

One member of staff told the inquiry that "it was worse than being on operations".

Another commented: "If you are pushing your people and expecting them to perform a match every day, then you are going to break them." 

Image ID G3M0B9 Front facade of Old College building Royal Military Academy Sandhurst 160812 EXP 041123 CREDIT imageBROKER, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Olivia Perks died at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2019 (Picture: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo).

The inquiry found "incoherent and disjointed" welfare procedures were not being followed, which led to "poor decision-making" in Olivia's case, and information was not sufficiently shared between college staff, chaplains, the chain of command and medical staff.

Communications at the college were so dire that Olivia's partner found out about her death on social media and her picture was used in recruitment adverts several months after she died. 

Olivia was considered to be a promising cadet who had come top in her class on the pre-Sandhurst (PRAMs) course at the Army School of Education. 

The inquiry found she was "an Officer Cadet described as performing well; enthusiastic, engaging, polite and humble and a strong member of the platoon". 

The incidents involving Olivia were treated as disciplinary matters because of the alcohol involved rather than the focus being on her welfare. 

The inquiry recommended: "HQ RMAS is requested to review the training of RMAS Permanent Staff, both officers and SNCOs, in order to ensure that the appointees have the correct balance of KSE and interpersonal skills, including a high level of applied emotional intelligence." 

Welfare provision has already been reviewed at Sandhurst and a welfare team established. 

Current commandant Major General Zac Stenning said they had added new facilities, more staff and improved communication and that they were "developing an effective culture by rewarding the right behaviours and upskilling the staff and officer cadets". 

He added: "There is more to do; we are determined to produce the best possible leaders for our Army and the nation."  

The head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, pledged to learn lessons from the inquiry and said its recommendations would impact across the whole of the Army

An inquest into Olivia's death opens next week.