Abuse allegations at Harrogate Army Foundation College raised in House of Lords


Nov 25, 2021

Allegations of bullying and abuse at Harrogate’s Army Foundation College were raised in the House of Lords this week.

The college on Pennypot Lane recruits about 1,500 young men and women each year. It is the only British Army establishment that delivers military training to soldiers under the age of 18.

The issue of how the soldiers are treated by staff and instructors at the AFC has been back in the spotlight this month.

A female instructor at the college was demoted after being convicted of punching teenage soldiers and three parents also called for the college to be closed after claiming their children were abused.

A letter from the parents to Ofsted said that there had been 60 complaints from parents or trainees about the way 16 and 17-year-old soldiers were treated at the AFC between 2014 and 2020. These complaints included allegations of assault and battery.

Speaking in the Lords during a debate on the Armed Forces Bill, Lord Browne of Layton said that the scale of complaints from parents make him want to “reconsider many of the things said in support of AFC Harrogate and what it was actually doing with these young people.”

He added:

“My suspicion is that this issue will not go away—that, like many issues over the last 10 years that have become apparent about institutions, it will be a slow burner but eventually much more will come out.

“History tends to suggest that there is something there that needs to be investigated.”

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The college was recently rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. It gave positive feedback on safeguarding at the college saying it investigated incidents thoroughly and made necessary improvements.

In response to Lord Layton, Baroness Goldie, who is a minister at the Ministry of Defence, defended the college and said it has been doing “a very good job”.

“I, on behalf of the MoD, think that this is a good system for young people aged between 16 and 18. It serves them well and is good for the Armed Forces.

“I totally understand the natural interests in issues of governance, well-being and welfare where this training is provided. I absolutely accept that and it is right and proper, but it would be quite wrong to cast this college in a negative light.

“The evidence is that it has been doing a very good job and a lot of young people have benefited as a result of their attendance at it.”

A British Army spokesman told the Stray Ferret:

“We have very strong duty of care and safeguarding mechanisms at AFC (Harrogate) to ensure Junior Soldiers have the right support structures.  This includes multiple methods of accessing welfare support, including confidential support lines.

“We take every incident seriously and will refer an allegation to the RMP for investigation. We also have a Ministry of Defence Police Officer based at AFC (Harrogate) to assist in education and investigation.”

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