Red Arrows facing ‘toxic’ bullying and sexual harassment claims

An investigation into an alleged “toxic” culture within the Royal Air Force‘s Red Arrows team has uncovered claims of bullying, misogyny, assault, sexual harassment and drunkenness.

An “under-the-table” inquiry into the aerobatics display division of the RAF, was launched earlier this year following negative reports about its drinking culture.

But insiders have told The Times that the non-statutory inquiry is far more wide-ranging, with come 40 personnel, including young female recruits, giving over 250 hours of testimony to the inquiry.

It has so far documented at least 13 alleged behaviours including misogyny, harassment, sexual harassment, assault, “misunderstanding of consent”, sexual assault, victimisation, bullying, intimidation, isolation and indecent exposure, the paper added.

A source at the Ministry of Defence confirmed a number of Red Arrows personnel were the subject of an investigation into inappropriate behaviour but none have met the threshold for criminal charges.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told Times Radio on Wednesday that some had been removed from the display team for this season. It is understood that none of the pilots currently on the team are accused of wrongdoing.

The Times claimed alleged victims were told that if they spoke up they would be sent home or kicked out of the RAF.

The newspaper reported that senior leaders “swept complaints under the carpet” for years to protect the reputations of people considered “untouchable”.

Members of the Red Arrows, based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, have also been accused of drunkenness, but an RAF spokeswoman said the allegations were “unfounded”.

Mr Heappey told Times Radio he was confident that Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston and his team were investigating the allegations.

He said: “The very highest of standards are demanded of our armed forces across the board, and 99.99 per cent of them deliver in spades.

“Those who have the privilege of serving in an organisation like the Red Arrows have, I think, an even greater responsibility because they are so much in the public eye – and the allegations that have been made are very concerning indeed.

“The Royal Air Force have taken, I think, the right action in that they have got those against whom these allegations have been made under investigation.

“I’m confident that the chief of the air staff and his team are investigating these allegations – they’ve taken action to remove them from the display team for this season.

“We’ll wait until those investigations are complete before the individuals responsible are held to account.”

An MoD source said the inquiry’s final report was with RAF leaders for consideration.

An RAF spokeswoman said: “The RAF has a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour and takes action wherever wrongdoing is proven.

“Following allegations of unacceptable behaviour within the Red Arrows, the RAF commissioned a thorough and far-reaching investigation.

“We will not be commenting further on the individual circumstances of specific personnel moves, which have been made without prejudice and are the result of both personal and professional reasons.

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