Royal Navy: Judge calls for end to drunken parties after jailing disgraced sailor for raping a colleague
A judge has called for a ban on parties involving 'excessive drinking' in the Royal Navy after jailing a sailor for raping a female colleague following a prosecco-fuelled ‘naked mess’ party at a Holiday Inn.
Able Seaman William Stewart took advantage of the woman who had ‘crashed’ after celebrating her birthday by stripping down to her bra and showering herself and her half-naked male shipmates in fizz.
The pair were part of a group of sailors who had been out drinking before returning to the hotel to continue celebrations in a conference room.
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Several sailors took their tops off after someone shouted ‘naked mess’ and lay on the floor as the female sailor 'poured prosecco' on herself and them, the court martial heard.
She then went with three of the group - including AB Stewart - to another male sailor's hotel room, where she later awoke to find the 26-year-old sexually assaulting her.
Jailing the disgraced sailor for eight and a half years, Judge Advocate Robert Hill warned of the volume of similar incidents occurring in the armed forces, suggesting a ‘ban’ be considered to deter ‘excessive drinking’.
Judge Hill said: ‘We wish to make this general observation…
‘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.
‘This is the second case [we have dealt with] 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.’
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire, has heard a host of similar cases over the past year, including that of Leading Seaman Sam Avery in October - who was jailed for five years for raping a female who had agreed to let him sleep in her room after a drunken night out.
At his trial this month the court was told the incident involving AB Stewart took place during a night out in the north east while the sailors’ ship was undergoing maintenance.
Prosecuting, Wing Commander Michael Saunders said: ‘AB Stewart had recently joined the ship. They all had a significant amount to drink. [The female victim] was given a bottle of prosecco, as it was her birthday.
‘[Videos from the conference room] show [her] pouring the prosecco over herself and onto some males with their tops off on the floor. One of them was AB Stewart.’
Giving her evidence, the female sailor told the court: "It was my birthday the day after. We were celebrating that 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. [Later on] we were all in the conference room, and we ordered pizza.
‘“Naked mess” was shouted - it was just tops off... we all had a bit of the prosecco and I got a bit wet [from] the alcohol.
‘I remember people laying on the floor when I had the prosecco... I was stood up with the bottle.’
The woman - who cannot be named for legal reasons - told the court four of the sailors went back to one of their rooms to carry on the party.
‘I asked the lad whose room it was if I could change into dry clothes,’ she said. ‘I changed into boxers and a top and continued drinking.
‘I started getting sleepy and I just crashed. I fell asleep.’
But the 'scared and confused' woman later awoke to AB Stewart, an engineering technician she hardly knew, touching her.
She said AB Stewart, who grew up in Plymouth on the south coast of Devon, moved to the other side of the bed and sexually assaulted a male sailor who was also asleep before returning to rape her.
‘He basically did what he wanted and I hoped it would be over,’ she said. ‘I remember praying the lad next to me would wake up. It felt like a lifetime.’
AB Stewart had told the court martial all sexual activity with the sailors was consensual and instigated by them.
He also said the female sailor had been ‘twerking’ at him in the hotel room shortly before they got into bed together.
The woman accepted that this could have happened but said she did not remember it taking place.
AB Stewart was found guilty by a board of military personnel of one count of rape, one of assault by penetration and one of causing a person to engage in sexual activity.
Reading her victim impact statement to the court, the victim said she still had 'flashbacks' of the event and that it had brought her to 'the point of collapse both emotionally and physically'.
Judge Hill addressed AB Stewart, saying: ‘You were drunk and you all crashed out in the male [sailor]’s bed to go to sleep. There was no sexual expectation in the air whatsoever.
‘You performed [a sex act] on the [male sailor] and you raped [the female sailor]. After, you simply got dressed and left the room.
‘You were in drink and it is quite apparent that, having heard the female [sailor], she has suffered. There was a marked psychological impact.’AB Stewart stood still and showed no emotion as his sentence was read out, whilst family and friends wept at the back of the court.
The family of AB Stewart released a statement saying: ‘The family are shocked and incredulous at the outcome of this Court Martial and intend to pursue every route to clear their son's name.
‘There are far too many inconsistencies... This case needs to be thoroughly re-investigated. This is not over.’
In the last year there have been a series of other sexually related cases involving the Royal Navy heard at Bulford.
In February AB Sean Bramwell lost his job after he sexually assaulted a junior colleague after a night out in Tokyo just hours after the Prince of Wales had visited his ship.
The same month a captain of a Royal Navy ship who had sex with a drunk cadet after she was sick over a pub table was cleared of rape.
Lieutenant Rhys Christie was found not guilty of five counts of rape after he was alleged to have 'pounced on the vulnerability' of a young woman following two navy nights out.
In July, 31-year-old AB Jodie McSkimmings was dismissed from the Navy for drunkenly sexually assaulting three male sailors during an expedition in Norway.
AB Mitieli Vakalaca was jailed for four years in August after he tried to rape a female colleague and refused to let her check if he was wearing a condom, having been drinking heavily that evening.
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 in the nuclear vessel.