A military judge has said the armed services need to do more to address drinking because it can lead to sex offence cases as a married British colonel was acquitted of rape.
Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Tomkins, of Defence, Equipment and Support (DES), was cleared of the single count of rape against a subordinate in her room after an important meeting in an African hotel.
The 49-year-old had told Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire, that he denied the offence and said the sex had been consensual.But a board of senior officers lambasted him for “embarrassing” the service as they found him not guilty of the offence at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, on January 7, 2015.
Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett added:
“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.”
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.”
Lt Col Tomkins, of the Rifles regiment, based at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, admitted that he had been “flirting” with her when he gave her a neck massage in the hotel bar.
He 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.
Judge Blackett also criticised the length of time the case took to come to court, adding: “This trial has taken far too long, some of it has been caused by the bureaucracy of the United Nations.
“This has been a difficult case to manage because of the jurisdiction matters.”
Thanking the board of officers, he said: “It has been difficult going to America and back, can I commend you and your colleagues.”