Sandhurst 'marked its own homework' over self-harm of cadet who took her own life

A damning service inquiry report into Olivia Perks’s suicide was published last week
A damning service inquiry report into Olivia Perks’s suicide was published last week

Sandhurst "marked its own homework" over a cadet’s self-harm, an army officer who met Olivia Perks on an away day has said.

The officer spoke to The Telegraph after a damning service inquiry report into Ms Perks’s suicide was published last week, which revealed she had been the victim of a “complete breakdown in welfare support”.

The report also revealed that Ms Perks had a relationship with a member of the physical training staff during the intermediate and senior terms and that 19 relationships occurred between staff and cadets at Sandhurst during her time there.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has since pledged to draw up new plans where instructors who have sex with their students face criminal prosecutions.

He told The Telegraph: "Parents entrust their young people to us and for any student to be put in that position is not only appalling but needs a response.”

Officers took shifts to monitor Ms Perks through the night

Over a weekend in July 2018, Ms Perks had attended a familiarisation visit in Wyke Regis hosted by the Royal Engineers, a corps she was looking to join after completing her time at the academy.

The Officer said he was present when the “alarm was raised” that Ms Perks had self-harmed five times on the visit.

He explained how officers, along with the female cadets in her accommodation, had taken shifts to monitor her throughout the night to ensure she did not self-harm again.

Following the incident the officer said a report was written up and sent to Sandhurst and he assumed her career would have likely ended. However, the officer said because “the MoD still marks its own homework,” those who would have assessed the matter would not have been appropriately trained.

The Sovereign's Parade at the Sandhurst Academy - Eddie Mulholland
The Sovereign's Parade at the Sandhurst Academy - Eddie Mulholland

“The investigation was the responsibility of the Chain of Command,” the officier said. “None of these officers will have done a formal investigation and it’s not something we are in a position to do the best job.”

“My assumption leaving that familiarisation visit was that she would almost certainly be discharged,” he added.

Instead, the service inquiry report showed that Ms Perks was deemed as being “fit to return to training” the day after the incident.

'Shocked and appalled she was allowed to continue training'

The officer said: “I am frankly shocked and appalled she was allowed to continue training when obviously in need of help.”

They added that they were “genuinely amazed that after that incident she was allowed to continue training. I was shocked by the manner in which she was let down.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has announced a new tri-service and independent body to investigate criminal offences within the Armed Forces, including rape and sexual assault.

The Defence Serious Crime Command (DSCC) and Defence Serious Crime Unit (DSCU) has the jurisdiction to investigate the most serious crimes alleged to have been committed by persons subject to service law in both the UK and overseas.

The unit, based in Southwick Park, replaces the existing Special Investigation Branches, will still be staffed by officers, however the MoD said that they will be trained to the same standard as their civilian counterparts.