Government owes Bassingbourn community ‘big time’ after long awaited MoD report finally made public
PUBLISHED: 08:32 24 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:25 24 September 2015
The government owes the Bassingbourn community big time – that’s the view of the leader of Cambridge City Council after a report into the way authorities handled the atrocities committed by Libyan soldiers training at Bassingbourn Barracks was made public.
A report into the training programme, prepared by the chief of defence staff for Prime Minister David Cameron, right, was published in December in the wake of the scandal that soldiers committed sex offences in Cambridge.
But the full report has only now been made public after growing pressure from the local community.
The report states the Ministry of Defence believes the vetting and screening process of the Libyans ‘was adequate’, but a restriction on soldiers did not prevent the serious crimes from being committed.
The document concludes that ‘little could have been done to avert what happened other than introducing a security regime that would have been so severe that it would have rendered the programme infeasible’.
Councillor Adrian Dent, who represents Bassingbourn on Cambridgeshire County Council, feels this shows the training programme should never have been started in the first place.
He said: “They realised there were problems – they weren’t in control from the start.”
Cambridge City Council leader Lewis Herbert agreed, saying: “Even now, the MoD still owes residents a proper explanation why they ignored the risks to our communities.
“As the investigation shows, they never had full control at Bassingbourn and elsewhere.”
The 56-page report also admits communication problems between MoD organisations responsible for training, local authorities and the wider community.
It goes on to say: “All three councils told us that they did not consider that they had received any formal communication from the Ministry of Defence in relation to the training” – a problem Councillor Dent experienced first hand.
He said: “We weren’t consulted by the MoD. I was told by the army this is what we have done. Nobody was consulted – they were told.”
The report also reveals that after allegations of sexual assault were made to police in October, security was heightened at the barracks from 28 British army guards to 87.
But that failed to stop five trainees escaping the next weekend and committing a number of sexual assaults, including rape.
After that weekend, security reached ‘containment’ level – with almost 300 security personnel drafted in to guard the base – before the Libyan soldiers were sent home.
Councillor Herbert said: “I think the government owes the Bassingbourn community big time, and some good must come out of the catastrophic series of events where the MoD now admits they totally lost control.
“The right answer is for the MoD to agree with the local community plans for the future use of the barracks including immediate access to recreation facilities there currently being wasted and lying idle.”
Councillor Dent said he hopes the barracks will be used for housing veterans or as a training base, which would open up the possibility for recreation facilities.