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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 16:38 GMT
Female spy makes harassment claim
Corporal Leah Mates
Cpl Mates says sexist jokes were made by colleagues at her expense
A female special forces spy has told an employment tribunal how she was sexually harassed by male colleagues during 10 years in the Army.

Corporal Leah Mates, 30, from Calne, Wiltshire, is claiming 686,000 for sexual discrimination.

Her statement said an "anti-female prejudice... permeates the whole Army" and she had felt suicidal as a result of the treatment she received.

The Ministry of Defence is contesting the case, involving 43 allegations.

Cpl Mates, who earns 27,000, is retiring from the 14 Intelligence Company, part of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.

I now began to understand that the Army is a male preserve and a woman who tries to establish herself does so at the peril
Cpl Leah Mates

She says her claim is for damages and loss of earnings.

In her statement, read to the tribunal in Southampton, Cpl Mates said: "I now began to understand that the Army is a male preserve and a woman who tries to establish herself does so at the peril of her health and happiness."

Cpl Mates recounted a catalogue of incidents she said dated back to when she joined the Army in September 1995.

However, the majority of her complaints relate to her time in the Signal Regiment of the Army's 3 Division, which she joined in April 1997.

She claims that her troop sergeant repeatedly asked her if she was a lesbian, in front of her colleagues, to her embarrassment and distress.

Acceptable behaviour?

Cpl Mates said: "At that time being gay caused you to be thrown out of the Army."

When asked why she had not complained at the time, she said: "I thought this must be normal and acceptable behaviour as much as I did not like it."

And, after being promoted two years later, Cpl Mates said she received a text stating: "Nice one on your promotion. You didn't deserve it. Everyone hates you for it."

She believes it was sent by a man in her squadron.

The tribunal also heard that Cpl Mates said she was groped by a male soldier, who also performed a sexual act on himself while calling out her name when they shared a tent in Kosovo.

Immature joke

Cpl Mates, who said she used a headphone with music to drown out the noise, was reduced to tears when she started to talk about the allegation under questioning from Ministry of Defence solicitor Martin Chamberlain.

"I did not like what I was hearing and because he would not stop and because I was scared I did not want to hear it," she said, adding that she only used one earpiece to hear if he moved towards her.

But the tribunal heard that the man involved denied the alleged sex act, claiming it had been an immature joke.

Mr Chamberlain said told her: "You convinced yourself that a sex act was going on."

She replied that the soldier had admitted what he had done, and added: "I did not have to convince myself of anything."

The tribunal was adjourned until Wednesday.

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