Lesbian soldier wins MoD harassment payout

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A lesbian soldier has been awarded £187,000 in compensation for sex discrimination, victimisation and sexual harassment.

Lance Bombardier Kerry Fletcher, 32, told an employment tribunal in Leeds that her career in the Army had collapsed as a result of the actions of Staff Sergeant Ian Brown, 40, while she worked at an Army stables in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire.

The tribunal heard how Ms Fletcher was subject to a sustained campaign of victimisation as she rejected the sergeant’s advances.

Amongst other things, her tormentor sent her explicit text messages saying he could “convert” her from being a lesbian suggested that she join him in a threesome with another woman.

Miss Fletcher’s solicitor John Mackenzie said that her position in the Army had become untenable after she had won her case against the Ministry of Defence in 2004.

Lance Bombardier Fletcher will end her career early next year after 12 years.

After her victory, Ms Fletcher said: “I am delighted, over the moon because it has taken such a long time to achieve what I have achieved.

“I basically had to prove that I was not lying. What they have put me through has been awful. I never deserved it and am determined to get fair compensation for my career being ruined.”

In a damning judgment, the tribunal found that the MoD had paid “no more than lip service to the concepts of equal opportunities and the prevention of discrimination”.

After complaining of harassment, Miss Fletcher was disciplined, her mental stability questioned and she was denied a transfer.

Her car was vandalised, she was belittled at work and she received sinister phone calls, the tribunal heard.

The panel branded the MoD’s treatment of Miss Fletcher “so outrageous” that it amounted to “conscious wrongdoing”.

It ruled: “This is as severe a case of victimisation following an allegation of sexual harassment as one could see in an employment tribunal.

“The conduct in relation to Miss Fletcher as a soldier seeking redress was from start to finish oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

Miss Fletcher’s payout included a punitive award of £50,000 in exemplary damages, designed to punish the offender. It is thought to be the first time an employment tribunal has ever awarded exemplary damages in this country.

The payout sparked criticism from The National Gulf Veterans’ and Families’ Association
group which branded the payout “obscene” compared to compensation for injured troops.

Spokesman Shaun Rusling said: “We don’t agree with anyone being picked on but it is just Miss Fletcher’s feelings that have been hurt. She will get better.

“You do not get better when your arms and legs have been blown off.”

Mr Mackenzie described the payout as “sensational and stunning”.

“This case shows that the Army and the MoD is not the slightest bit interested in complying with the law of the land.

“They have wrecked her life and her career and they just do not care, whatever they may say. If ever there was a case that merited the award of exemplary damages, this was it.”

Mr Mackenzie said the sum could not be compared to injury compensation.

“Tribunal decisions have to be reflected in payouts. It is a false comparison to make between tribunal payouts and the money the MoD pays to injured service personnel, which is always inadequate.”