Human Rights Commission dismisses Regiment sex claims

  • Regiment commanding officer Lt Col Brian Gonsalves

    Regiment commanding officer Lt Col Brian Gonsalves

The Human Rights Commission has closed its investigation and dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct at the Bermuda Regiment after no one came forward with complaints.

The news was announced in a Regiment statement yesterday, accompanied by a letter that the executive officer of the HRC wrote to its Commanding Officer on October 25.

The Commission launched an investigation after this newspaper reported in 2009 that 14 male soldiers had made claims of sexual assault or harassment at the Regiment since 1989.

The Regiment said the allegations were dealt with at the time but would not disclose any further information or statistics to The Royal Gazette on how many sexual misconduct claims had been made in its 44-year history.

In her letter, HRC executive officer Lisa Lister Reed told Commanding Officer Brian Gonsalves: “After careful consideration of the many reports that appeared in The Royal Gazette in September and October 2009, the Commission sought to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct at the Bermuda Regiment.

“The decision to investigate was made at meetings of the Commission held in October 2009, and the investigation formally started on or about March 24, 2010. During the investigation, the public was invited to make representation and to provide any information related to the alleged incidents as reported in the press.

“The plea was made to urge individuals to make complaints to the Commission or to the Regiment in order that any complaints could be properly investigated. The investigation revealed that no person came forward.”

Ms Lister said the Regiment produced all documentation requested, including policies and procedures relating to the reporting processes and investigations of complaints.

“Also, the Regiment provided information regarding specific cases of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. We are thankful that the Regiment was co-operative and responded expeditiously to any requests for information and any specific records,” she wrote.

Ms Lister went on to explain: “The Commission has decided to discontinue the investigations for three reasons. Firstly, despite the urging given to persons who may have experienced sexual misconduct at the Bermuda Regiment and others with knowledge of these allegations to report these incidents to the Commission, no-no one came forward and no complaint was received by the Commission.

“Secondly, the investigation highlighted that all of the alleged incidents would have occurred in 2002 or before 2002. The Commission has no authority to investigate complaints that are more than two years old from the date of the alleged contravention.

“Thirdly, the Regiment was very forthright during the investigation. The Regiment stated that the most recent complaint received was in 2005, which occurred while the Regiment was on an overseas mission. The Commission is satisfied that this complaint was properly dealt with and that the Regiment has a robust sexual harassment policy. We note that the policy is based on the United Kingdom model.”

The Royal Gazette has previously reported how Regiment Major Glenn Brangman was accused by 13 male soldiers of sexual misconduct before he was ordered to retire from the Regiment in 2002.

Nothing was ever proven against him in relation to the Regiment accusations. However, Brangman, 60, was convicted in February of four charges of sexually assaulting a male teenager who was working as a clerk at the Bermuda Housing Corporation in 2009. Brangman was the Corporation’s general manager at the time.

He lost an appeal against the convictions this week and was remanded into custody, pending a sentencing hearing at a later date.

It emerged during separate court proceedings in 2011 that what was described as an attempted knifepoint rape was committed by one soldier on another during a hurricane relief trip to Grenada in 2005.

Lt Col Gonsalves told a Supreme Court hearing relating to the Bermudians Against the Draft case that a private attacked another man of the same rank.

He said the man was disciplined internally and served less than two months in military jail. The incident was characterised by lawyer Eugene Johnston, representing BAD, as “the knife to the neck, the attempted rape”.

Shadow National Security Minister Michael Dunkley suggested after that news emerged that a review of the Regiment’s handling of the case and its ability to deal with such serious allegations internally was needed.

In her letter to the Regiment, Ms Lister Reed recommended that the Regiment make clear to soldiers that the Human Rights Commission and Bermuda Police Service are appropriate agencies to report such allegations to. She also apologised for the length of time the two-and-a-half-year investigation took, but said it was necessary to give people the opportunity to make complaints if they wished.

She added: “It made no sense in rushing a matter like this, where serious allegations have been made.”

In a press release accompanying the letter from the HRC, Lt Col Gonsalves said: “The Commission recommended that the Regiment make clearer the right of potential complainants to take their concerns direct to the Commission or the Bermuda Police Service. The Regiment has accepted this and will have these recommendations in effect by the end of the week.”

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Published Nov 1, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 31, 2012 at 11:26 pm)

Human Rights Commission dismisses Regiment sex claims

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