Army major who 'repeatedly groped' a male soldier after LGBTQ event at the Commons is fined £2,000 1

Army major who ‘repeatedly groped’ a male soldier after LGBTQ event at the Commons is fined £2,000

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Matthew Clarke admitted groping the soldier - who was 18 years younger - as they danced in a nightclub in Soho, central London

Matthew Clarke admitted groping the soldier – who was 18 years younger – as they danced in a nightclub in Soho, central London

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A British Army major repeatedly touched a male colleague’s bottom on a drunken night out after an LGBTQ event at the House of Commons, a court martial has heard.

Matthew Clarke admitted groping the soldier – who was 18 years younger – as they danced in a nightclub in Soho, central London.

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It came just hours after he had given a speech on ‘behaving properly’ while representing the military.

The court martial heard the major grabbed the man’s bum over his chinos and tried to get him to go home with him during his ‘persistent and unwanted’ behaviour.

Clarke had been ‘changed’ by seeing action in Afghanistan and having lost soldiers who he was close to, Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire was told.

The senior officer was slapped with a £2,000 fine but avoided being demoted, meaning he can still make Lieutenant Colonel next month.

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Clarke had been 'changed' by seeing action in Afghanistan and having lost soldiers who he was close to, Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire was told

Clarke had been ‘changed’ by seeing action in Afghanistan and having lost soldiers who he was close to, Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire was told

Judge Alan Large said that Major Clarke had ‘misjudged’ the situation when he was drunk.

He said: ‘The standard of conduct expected of officers does not change when they have been drinking.

‘You had briefed personnel on their behaviour just hours before. This was a significant lack of judgement due to alcohol.

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‘Taking all accounts into consideration, it seems this case is so severe that you must be subject to a service compensation order of £2,000.’

He added: ‘The Army will consider extra administrative matters including potential discharge.’

Major Clarke, who has served in the Army for more than 16 years, had admitted one charge of misconduct through alcohol.

He previously commanded The First Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Vikings, in South Sudan, North Africa, and was awarded a United Nations medal.

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He was also awarded an Iraq Medal and a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal during his ‘exemplary’ service career.

Prosecuting, William Peters said Major Clarke and his younger colleague were part of a large group who were drinking after an LGBTQ event at the House of Commons.

He said: ‘The background is a night out in central London following attendance at an Armed Forces LGBTQ event in the House of Commons.

‘Both [Maj Clarke] and [the victim] attended that event. [The victim] was 18 years younger than Maj Clarke and they didn’t know each other before.

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‘At the event [the younger victim] spoke to Maj Clarke about the accommodation at his home unit and the two exchanged details so this matter could be followed up.’

The senior officer was slapped with a £2,000 fine but avoided being demoted, meaning he can still make Lieutenant Colonel next month

The senior officer was slapped with a £2,000 fine but avoided being demoted, meaning he can still make Lieutenant Colonel next month

He went on: ‘After the event people got changed and went to several bars in central London.

‘A large group including mutual friends of both [Maj Clarke and the victim] went out – and most were drinking freely. There was group dancing and general [celebrating].

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‘[The group] went to a number of different bars and clubs and the events which form the charges occurred at a club [in Soho].

‘In this club, firstly by the bar, [the victim] felt a palm grab his left buttock briefly over his chinos.

‘He then turned around to find Maj Clarke – who apologised and said the touching was accidental.

‘[Later], as [the victim] was dancing with someone else, Maj Clarke approached him and undid one of his shirt buttons.

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‘After that, at different times and at several locations, Maj Clarke repeatedly grabbed [the victim]’s buttocks over his chinos.

‘[The victim] felt nervous and pressured when Maj Clarke was around him. Maj Clarke later asked if [the victim] would go back to his place, but he declined.

‘[The victim] made an official complaint days later and evidence was gathered from several sources, including hours of CCTV footage [from the club].’

Major Clarke's lawyer Sam Jones told Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire (pictured) he was still affected by Afghanistan in the early 2010s, where his company commander and a Sergeant were killed

Major Clarke’s lawyer Sam Jones told Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire (pictured) he was still affected by Afghanistan in the early 2010s, where his company commander and a Sergeant were killed

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Major Clarke’s lawyer Sam Jones told the court he was still affected by Afghanistan in the early 2010s, where his company commander and a Sergeant were killed.

He said: ‘I don’t know what it is like to engage with an enemy or to lose a fellow soldier or a friend.

‘But what I do recognise is that experiences like that leave their mark on someone, can cause a scar and can change a person.

‘That is what happened with Maj Clarke. [His experiences in Afghanistan] led him to lean on alcohol and are at the root of this case.

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‘These events [in Afghanistan] started a process which crystallised and came to a head when he behaved as he did. He crossed the line, and he accepts that he did.’

Judge Large told Major Clarke his ‘persistent and unwanted’ acts were severe enough to warrant the £2,000 fine.

But he stopped short of ordering demotion or another active fine which would have seen him overlooked for promotion for another two years.

He said: ‘You were at an Armed Forces LGBTQ event in London. It was your responsibility to set an example: you briefed people at the event on the need to behave properly.

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‘You were 18 years older than he [the victim]. You were not friends and had not met before that day.’

He continued: ‘You went with a group to various bars and [later] to a club with a dancefloor.

‘CCTV shows members of the group dancing together. Some of that dancing was sexualised, including the touching of people’s bottoms – including [the victim]’s.

‘He did not, however, agree to you touching his bottom. You were a senior officer – significantly older than him.

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‘You completely misjudged the situation, but with your life experience and in the Army in particular, you must have known that just because a person consents to activity from one person does not mean they want it from everyone.

‘Your behaviour could be described as persistent and unwanted.

‘You have heard this has had a considerable impact on [the victim] and on his personal, private and family life.

‘You have what lawyers call good character, but also an exemplary professional record.

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‘This is clearly not the most serious breach of the values and standards of the British Army – but it is nonetheless serious.’

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