Judge calls for ban on Royal Naval parties after sailor jailed for raping colleague

Judge calls for ban on Royal Naval parties after sailor jailed for raping colleague
Victim says she woke to find a sailor she hardly knew assaulting her and a male colleague

A judge has said there should be a ban placed on parties involving “excessive drinking” in the Royal Navy after a sailor was jailed for raping a female colleague following a party at a hotel.

Judge Advocate Robert Hill warned that a pattern of behaviour was emerging in the UK armed forces and urged military chiefs to consider taking decisive action.

Able Seaman (AB) William Stewart, 26, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison after being found guilty of raping the woman following her birthday party.

The pair had been out drinking with colleagues in the northeast of England while their ship was undergoing maintenance, before returning to a Holiday Inn to continue the celebrations in a conference room.

Some clothes were removed and the victim poured prosecco over colleagues and herself, the court martial at Bulford military court in Wiltshire heard.

She then went with three of the group, including Stewart, to another sailor’s hotel room and fell asleep, where she later woke to find him sexually assaulting her.

Giving evidence, the victim told the court: “We were celebrating [my birthday] and a couple of people were promoted, so we were celebrating that, too.

“We were all having drinks and everybody was having a good time. We were all in the conference room, and we ordered pizza. ‘Naked mess!’ was shouted. It was just tops off.”

She said she fell asleep in someone’s room and was woken up by Stewart, an engineering technician who she hardly knew, assaulting her. The woman also said she saw Stewart assault a male sailor on the other side of the bed, before he returned to rape her.

“He basically did what he wanted and I hoped it would be over,” she told the court. “I remember praying the lad next to me would wake up. It felt like a lifetime.”

Reading her victim impact statement out, the woman said she had flashbacks of the attack and it had brought her to “the point of collapse both emotionally and physically”.

Judge Hill, while sentencing, said there appeared to be a “pattern of behaviour” in cases like this. “We wish to make this general observation,” he said. “There seems to be a pattern of behaviour of drinking to excess in each other’s company, ending up in each other’s cabins and choosing to crash in the beds they are in.”

He added: “This is the second case in a matter of weeks of the behavioural trend I have described. It would be appropriate to consider whether any ban should be strictly enforced.”

Addressing Stewart directly, who stood still and showed little emotion as his sentence was read out, the judge said it was “quite apparent” that there was “no sexual expectation in the air whatsoever”.

“You were [drunk] and it is quite apparent that, having heard the female [sailor], she has suffered. There was a marked psychological impact.”

Wing Commander Michael Saunders, prosecuting, said: “Stewart had recently joined the ship. They all had a significant amount to drink. [The victim] was given a bottle of prosecco, as it was her birthday.”

Stewart’s family released a statement following the sentencing to say they were “shocked and incredulous at the outcome”, and that they “intend to pursue every route to clear their son’s name”

“This case needs to be thoroughly re-investigated,” they said. “This is not over.”

It comes after AB Mitieli Vakalaca was jailed for four years in August for trying to rape a colleague after he had been drinking heavily. She told a court she had suffered with anxiety following the incident.

In the same month, AB Calvin Denver, a sailor on a missile-armed Trident submarine, was allowed to keep his job after he tried to force a female sailor to perform a sex act on him after drinking.

Meanwhile, in October, Leading Seaman Sam Avery was jailed for five years for raping a colleague who had agreed to let him sleep in her room after a night out.