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Service learns from death of tragic soldier

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement took her own life

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The family of soldier Anne-Marie Ellement, whose suicide lifted the lid on rape allegations and bullying in the army, said they were pleased with a pledge from a Government minister to change policies within the military.

They said the death of the 30-year-old from Dorset, who hanged herself at her barracks in Wiltshire almost three years ago, had not been in vain, after defence minister Anna Soubry admitted better training is needed for officers and those dealing with vulnerable soldiers.

Corporal Ellement was found hanged at her barracks in Bulford back in October 2011, two years after she reported she was raped by two colleagues while stationed in Germany.

An initial inquest into her death did not hear about the rape allegation, or about alleged bullying of Corporal Ellement by fellow soldiers over the allegations and the fact that no charges were ever laid against the two soldiers involved.

Corporal Ellement's family successfully campaigned for a second inquest to be held, and that inquest earlier this year was thrown into controversy with the coroner calling for a police investigation into whether witnesses and evidence had been interfered with.

The coroner agreed with the first inquest verdict – that Corporal Ellement took her own life – but issued a series of instructions for the military to review the way they deal with vulnerable soldiers.

Now, the Ministry of Defence has admitted better training is needed for those dealing with vulnerable soldiers who are considered a suicide risk.

Defence minister Anna Soubry said the armed forces' Code of Practice would be updated, and training would improve.

"While we believe that our Suicide Vulnerability Risk Assessment policy is clear and well-written, we recognise that both the initial and follow-up training provided to personnel who fulfil the role of SVRM unit lead is insufficient and needs to be improved," she said.

In practical terms, this will mean the length of the training course that all Unit Welfare Officers go on will increase to include a two-day mental health first aid course, and other courses will include training on how to spot and deal with vulnerable soldiers who may be a suicide risk.

The Code of Practice, the armed forces' guide book for officers, will also now take into account practical steps to take when there are rape allegations made by one soldier against another from the same unit.

"I don't think there was any understanding of mental health issues," said Corporal Ellement's sister, Sharon Hardy.

"I am pleased with the response as I think this is one step towards a better understanding.

"I don't think there was any understanding of victims of crime, how to deal with them and I think Anne-Marie's case has highlighted that massive grey area they have and I hope that moving forward there will be a better understanding now."

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