Nine alleged rapes in one year at army’s youth training centre where tragic Jaysley Beck ‘took her own life’

6 October 2023, 06:18

Jaysley Beck, 19, took her own life after an 'intense' period of sexual harassment
Jaysley Beck, 19, took her own life after an 'intense' period of sexual harassment. Picture: Facebook

By Asher McShane

An army training centre for 16 and 17-year-olds that was previously attended by Jaysley Beck is facing questions over care of young recruits after nine rape investigations there were carried out by police.

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North Yorkshire police investigated nine rapes, two sexual assaults and two cases of voyeurism at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

Jaysley Beck died at Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire in December 2021. She was relentlessly pursued by her seniors to start sexual relationships.

Freedom of Information requests revealed serious safeguarding questions about the Harrogate centre, which was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Jaysley joined the army in 2019 aged just 16 and started her training at Harrogate before joining 47 Regiment, Royal Artillery.

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In 2021 there were 22 victims of sexual offences at Harrogate.

An army spokesperson said: "We have very strong safeguarding mechanisms at the Army Foundation college' as well as 'multiple methods of accessing welfare support, including confidential support lines".

The Army service inquiry report into Jaysley's death published on Wednesday describes "an intense period of unwelcome behaviour" and said it is "almost certain this was a causal factor" in the 19-year-old's death.

Wiltshire Police said officers are "aware of reports of sexual offences" and confirmed they are "already actively investigating".

Gunner Beck's death has led to charity the Centre for Military Justice, which provides legal help to Armed Forces members, to call for serious sexual harassment and bullying cases to be handled by an independent body.

In October 2021, Gunner Beck's immediate boss, who wanted a relationship with her but it was not reciprocated, sent her more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages and voicemails. The next month this increased to over 3,500, the Army investigation found.

"Whilst this behaviour ended the week before her death, it appears that it continued to affect her and had taken a significant toll on her mental resilience and wellbeing," the report said.

Gunner Beck's mother, Leighann McCready, said: "It's easy for people to say why don't you block him, you've got to have respect for those above you and Jaysley did have respect, it wasn't as straightforward as you can block your boss."

The week before her death, Gunner Beck left a work trip because of his behaviour, and was collected by a friend who found her "trembling and shaking", the report said.

Ms McCready, of Oxen Park in Cumbria, said her daughter would ring the family saying his behaviour was becoming "increasingly worrying towards her".

In July 2021, another of Gunner Beck's seniors made an "unwarranted and unwelcome sexual advance", the report said.

Ms McCready said her daughter told her the colleague "tried to grab her around the neck and put his hand between her legs", before she said "get off me sir".

Gunner Beck slept in her car that night as she was afraid he would go into her room, Ms McCready said.

Gunner Beck did not report the incident but someone else did. As a result of the correct reporting process not being followed, the discipline advice was based on a version of events from which "certain key details appear to have been accidentally omitted", the report said.

The man involved was given a minor sanction and told to write the teenager a letter of apology.

The report added that it was "possibly a factor that may have influenced her failure to report other events that happened subsequently".

The report says family issues, including a bereavement, were also responsible for Gunner Beck's death, which her family reject.

It detailed three "contributory factors" to Gunner Beck's death, including: the "significant strain" of a sexual relationship with a married colleague in the last few weeks of her life; a relationship which ended in November 2021 which involved "repeated allegations of unfaithfulness on the part of the boyfriend"; and an "unhealthy approach to alcohol, with episodes of binge drinking".

It added that Gunner Beck had no diagnosed mental health conditions and had not sought welfare support from anyone in the Army.

The inquiry into her death heard evidence from witnesses about inappropriate sexual behaviour being "commonplace amongst a significant minority" of male soldiers towards their female colleagues at Larkhill.

Measures to tackle this kind of behaviour were introduced in November 2022, it said.

Reviews in recent years, including from Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston and the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, have highlighted levels of bullying, sexism and racist behaviour, and in the case of the latter inquiry, bullying, harassment and discrimination.

The family's lawyer, Emma Norton, from the Centre for Military Justice, said: "The Army still has a systemic problem with misogyny and sexism. It's taking steps to address this but they don't go nearly far enough.

"Two recent independent reviews (Wigston and the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces) have recommended that the handling of serious sexual harassment and bullying cases must be taken away from the single services themselves and given to an independent (or semi-independent) body. And that sexual assault investigations should be handled by civilian police.

"Time after time the MoD rejects these calls. So when the MoD today tells you that it has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment or assault, it is important to bear that in mind."

Wiltshire Police would not confirm what the investigation was in relation to.

An Army spokesperson said: "Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck's family and friends at this difficult time."

They added that it would be inappropriate to comment further until after the inquest.

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