HC Deb 10 June 2002 vol 386 cc745-6W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence(a) how many and (b) what proportion of soldiers in each regiment of HM forces went absent without leave in (i) 1999, (ii) 2000 and (iii) 2001; and what measures he plans to take in response. [59693]

Mr. Ingram

The total number of soldiers who went absent without leave (AWOL) over the last three years is as follows:

Year Total
1999 2,077
2000 2,722
2001 2,662
Total 7,461

These figures represent those AWOL cases which were reported to the Royal Military Police (RMP) and are recorded on the database. The actual number of cases may differ to those recorded as some will have been dealt with at unit level where the absence was for a short period only.

It has not been possible to break the figures down by regiment as this information is not held centrally. The central database held by the RMP records total numbers only, therefore, a further breakdown by regiment could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

In an attempt to address the AWOL issue, the Army commenced a pilot scheme in September last year in London called "Reclaim Your Life". The aim of the scheme was to provide a bridge between the absentee and the Army by using a volunteer member of a service charity as an initial point of contact. It was thought that many absentees would be more prepared to return to their unit if they were better informed of the likely disciplinary consequences. This scheme is to be relaunched with greater publicity this year.

Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence(a) how many and (b) what proportion of soldiers going absent without leave in the last 12 months for which figures are available have alleged that they were victims of bullying or harassment; how many of these allegations led to disciplinary action against the perpetrators; and what the penalties were in each case. [59692]

Mr. Ingram

In the last 12 months, taken as January to December 2001, the figures for those personnel going absent without leave (AWOL) are shown in the table:

Total absentees 12,662
Total returned to unit 1675
Total charged with AWOL-related offences 2129
Total alleging bullying as contributory factor 29
Total alleging bullying as contributory factor 1.3 per cent.
Disciplinary action taken and penalties 3Nil return
1 Figures provided by Central Criminal Records and Intelligence Office (CCRIO) at Chichester.
2 Figures provided by Personal Services 2 (Army) Post Trials Section. Of these there are two recorded investigations by Royal Military Police but neither allegation was substantiated following investigation and therefore no prosecutions resulted.
3 Bullying per se is not a recorded crime and any such offence would be recorded as Assault within CCRIO. It is difficult to filter the data to determine whether a service man who had returned from AWOL had alleged harassment since these issues would be recorded separately.