United Kingdom

British Army officer loses rank after sexually assaulting female soldier

A British Army officer has been locked up for groping a female soldier's thigh and 'grabbing' her breast in a taxi following a night out clubbing.

Warrant Officer class 2 Paul Stafford sexually assaulted the Lance Corporal on the way back from a nightclub and then tried to take her back to the mess with him, a court martial heard.

WO2 Stafford, of the Royal Tank Regiment, denied sliding his hand under her dress and claimed he fell asleep in the taxi so nothing inappropriate happened.

Warrant Officer Paul Stafford, pictured at Bulford Military Court, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female Lance Corporal following a night out in Pembroke

Stafford, 40, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan claimed he could not remember what happened in the back of the taxi

But the 40 year old, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was convicted of sexual assault following a trial at Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire in August.

He has now lost his rank and was sentenced to 60 days detention at the same court, but he was not dismissed from the military.

The female Lance Corporal, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the trial she had been to a pub with colleagues in Pembroke before heading to a nightclub shortly before midnight.

WO2 Stafford was in that club and she said they all left together in a seven seat taxi.

The woman said she was sat between WO2 Stafford - who was his squadron's Sergeant Major - and a Major who was the commanding officer, while there was also a driver and three other soldiers in the vehicle.

She told the court 'a couple of minutes' into the journey back to camp 'WO2 Stafford put his right hand on my left thigh. I asked him to stop... It was under my clothing, I was wearing a dress'.

She added: 'He carried on doing it... He tried it once more and then reached his arm around [my neck] and touched my left breast.

Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor said Stafford had drank heavily on the night in question. He said he would not dismiss Stafford from the Army but would reduce him in rank to Staff Sergeant and order him to pay £1,000 in compensation to his victim. Stafford will also be held in detention for 60 days

'As he reached around me he pulled me in towards him and then managed to get his hand on my left breast.

'I was angry and in shock that he tried to do that... It all happened quite quickly.

'[Back at camp] WO2 Stafford grabbed my arm and tried pulling me down the road. He mentioned that he wanted me to go back to the mess with him. I told him to get the fuck off.'

The officer, who had served more than 20 years in the military, told the trial he could not remember the journey back to camp because he was asleep in the taxi.

A statement from the victim was read at the sentencing hearing, saying she is now so anxious she is unable to be in social settings with large crowds or go to the supermarket.

Gemma White, defending, said Stafford had enjoyed a 'very successful military career' and has twice in recent years been put forwards for promotion.

She added: 'He is highly regarded and has been effectively looking towards continued success in the military.'

Sentencing Stafford, Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor said: 'You consumed a very large amount of alcohol.

'We have no doubt that due to your significant intoxication your judgement was severely impaired during that taxi ride.

'You are clearly highly regarded by your superiors... you are not going to be dismissed, however your behaviour was such that you must lose your rank.'

The judge decided not to dismiss WO2 Stafford, but reduced his rank to Staff Sergeant, sentenced him to 60 days detention and ordered him to pay £1,000 in compensation for the single charge of sexual assault.

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