The Ministry of Defence has published reports into investigations of unacceptable behaviours and leadership failures within the RAF Aerobatic Team (the “Red Arrows”).
Commenting on the reports, Chair of the Defence Committee, Robert Courts MP, said:
“The report of the Non-Statutory Inquiry (NSI) outlines multiple instances of shockingly inappropriate – and sometimes predatory – behaviour within the Red Arrows. Clearly, there are serious cultural problems running deep within the unit, including a bystander culture, where individuals feel unable to call perpetrators out.
It is particularly concerning that the investigators warn that the Squadron was not a safe environment for females, concluding that it was ‘highly likely’ that women would be subject to illegal sexual harassment. No Service personnel should be made to feel unsafe by their colleagues. These are the very people who should protect them.
It is also shocking that despite the NSI review, deep-rooted problems persist, with a subsequent Commanding Officer’s investigation into leadership failings at RAFAT finding that the required change in culture had still not been delivered. This must be addressed with urgency.
The unacceptable behaviours and leadership failures laid out in these reports have no place in any professional environment – let alone in the Armed Forces, where the standards must be highest. The Defence Committee will continue its scrutiny of this area and will raise these issues in our upcoming session, following up on our work on the experiences of women in the Armed Forces.”
Chair of the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, Sarah Atherton MP, said:
“These are disturbing reports that reveal the extent of the unacceptable behaviour, bullying and sexual harassment within the Red Arrows, and the management failings that enable them. The NSI report shows that misconduct is pervasive within the team, with poor and even predatory behaviours so commonplace they have become normalised.
As the report acknowledges, victims of harassment often feel unable to speak out, for fear that they will hurt their career, or the careers of their colleagues. Women often feel at risk of being stereotyped as sensitive or hysterical and perpetrators hide behind ‘banter’.
The lack of progress between the two investigations speaks to just how embedded these behaviours are in the culture of the Red Arrows. We need fundamental change. I look forward to raising this with the Government again as we continue our follow-up work on Women in the Armed Forces”.