Male officer implicated in sex scandal 'booted' while woman soldier keeps her job

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, January 28, 2021

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THE Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal broken by the Sunday Observer on January 17 has resigned.

Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade yesterday disclosed that the investigations into the sexual misconduct involving the lieutenant have been concluded and he chose to offer his resignation, which was accepted by the defence board.

During two radio interviews yesterday evening, Meade said on conclusion of the investigations the female soldier and the male officer were charged under sections of the Defence Act for contravening the JDF's Sexual Relationship and Fraternisation Policy.

“Both the officer and the female soldier were tried by the appropriate superior authority (ASA) and the commanding officer, respectively. They were both found guilty; the officer was awarded the maximum fine available under the Defence Act for an ASA and he subsequently offered his resignation, which was submitted to the defence board and it has been confirmed,” said Meade, who indicated that he had made it clear to the lieutenant that he had lost confidence in him.

Meade pointed out that there were no allegations of sexual assault by either party, therefore no charges were laid for any breach of the JDFs Sexual Harassment Policy. He however noted that the lieutenant, who had served the JDF for three years, was also charged for a less significant issue of inappropriate relationship with another female soldier.

“They were consensual but when we looked at the situation they were highly inappropriate and the officer was held accountable for both cases that we discovered,” said Meade.

The JDF head said that an initial investigation was completed in December 2020 and the process for the officer was completed on January 22, 2021.

The Sunday Observer on January 17 reported that a woman soldier, who entered into a sexual relationship with her superior, a lieutenant, was charged under sections 75 and 46 of the Defence Act, and sentenced to 14 days in military prison.

The story led to public outcry and a call from the Opposition People's National Party for external investigations to be conducted. Retired JDF Colonel Allan Douglas also expressed his disappointment, but declared that he was confident the matter would be appropriately handled.

Based on documents obtained by the Sunday Observer, the female soldier was charged for conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to Section 75 of the Defence Act.

The details of the charge outlined that the woman soldier, “at Burke Barracks on Saturday, May 2, 2020, conducted herself in a manner most unbecoming of a trained soldier by engaging in sexual intercourse in the parking lot of the said barracks”.

In another charge report, the private's offence was disobedience to standing orders contrary to Section 46 (1) of the Defence Act. The details stated that the woman soldier, at Burke Barracks, on diverse dates in 2020, contravened the JDF Policy on Personal Relationship and Fraternisation, dated December 28, 2018, which was known to her, or which she might reasonably be expected to know, by entering into a personal relationship with a lieutenant.

Her relative, who brought the matter to the attention of the Observer, accused the lieutenant of predatory behaviour.

The third charge report seen by the Sunday Observer stated the offence as conduct to prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to Section 75 of the Defence Act.

The details were that the soldier, at Burke Barracks on Friday, June 19, 2020 sought to usurp the chain of command and unduly influence the transfer process of the organisation by threatening a superior officer to divulge information regarding their personal relationship.

Yesterday Meade disclosed that the woman soldier has been allowed to keep her job. He said she was transferred and is receiving counselling.

According to Meade, he has cautioned his officers and soldiers that there should be no intimidation or unfair treatment of the woman private and he expects that she will enjoy a fruitful military career.

In the meantime, JDF Force Executive Officer Commodore Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, reacting to the loss of public confidence in the JDF with regard to its treatment of women, said that militaries worldwide are male-dominated institutions.

She argued that the JDF has taken deliberate steps to ensure women, vulnerable groups and all genders in the force are protected through policies, namely its sexual harassment policy and personal relationships policy put in place in 2018.

“We are on good footing to show and demonstrate that we have taken all these steps and strong action where we find breaches of the policies we put in place,” said Wemyss-Gorman.

She argued that sexual harassment is not a systemic problem in the JDF.

“The JDF is a reflection of the society and we have various things that we deal with on a daily basis. What is important is that we have put in the policies and we do enforce them. We do want to assure the public that the JDF is committed to maintaining the high levels of discipline and standards that the Jamaican people have often congratulated us on having,” she said.

Wemyss-Gorman also pointed out that though she has not had to personally deal with sexual harassment, she has received reports which were actioned.

“I, particularly because of my present and previous appointments, have had reports of incidents and they have gone through the process, have been reported up the chain and have been dealt with. [Personally] there might have been a conversation or something that could have been construed that, had it gone any further, could have led to sexual harassment but [because of] my approach and response, it did not arise from that,” she explained.

The JDF, in a statement to the media, maintained that it remains committed to holding its members accountable for their actions and maintaining the highest level of military discipline as it continues to serve Jamaica.

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