Lesbian soldier seeks damages for sexual harassment

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Kerry Fletcher, a former lance bombardier in the Royal Artillery, is seeking damages of £400,000 from the Ministry of Defence.

An on-going employment tribunal in Leeds found in January that Ms Fletcher, a lesbian, was the victim of sexual harassment from a male sergeant at the North Yorkshire stables where she worked.

Ms Fletcher, who is currently a member of the Territorial Army in Reddich, is now seeking £381,000 in lost earnings plus £25,000 for injury to her feelings.

She claims that when she complained to senior officers about the harassment, she was told by them to keep quiet.

Ms Fletcher, 32, told the tribunal that the sergeant, who cannot yet be named, pestered her for sex and asked her to join in a threesome with him and another woman.

The sergeant also allegedly boasted in a text message: “Look, I might be able to convert you. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Ms Fletcher claims that the sergeant and other male colleagues tried to wreck her career when she refused his advances, and that she had to take time off with stress due to this.

After this, Ms Fletcher says she was harassed by the sergeant and his friends who forced her out of 40 Regiment, Royal Artillery in North Yorks.

In her new battery, Ms Fletcher faced similar treatment.

She says her tyres were slashed and she received abusive phone calls late at night.

She also claims to have overheard her new superior being instructed to “fuck her over” and “make her life a misery.”

She told the resumed tribunal yesterday:

“I went to those stables and did a good job. I was having quite a bad time with a senior officer.

“It was not so much the Army, but it was that one person who was making my life a misery. I was depressed and having panic attacks.

“I was very disappointed because I was going through a rough time with this guy.

“I told my regiment and I was basically told to keep quiet.

“I was having a hard time and felt I was losing my career.

“I didn’t want to leave the Army. It was my job and what I was trained to do.

“I had worked all those years and felt no one was helping me and I would have to leave without my pension.”

This is not the first time Ms Fletcher’s sexuality has caused problems at work.

In 1998 Ms Fletcher was caught in bed with an Australian policewoman.

At a disciplinary hearing she denied her sexuality, as homosexuality was not permitted in the Army. She was given a warning and posted to a different unit.

Ms Fletcher’s solicitor, John Mackenzie, said of his client:

“She is a completely innocent person whose life has been destroyed by the Army because she was rash enough to stand up for herself.”

Ms Fletcher is currently a full-time employee of the Army, but intends to leave in February 2009 and join the police force.

The tribunal continues.