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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 14:48 GMT
'Army race abuse destroyed my life'
David Howard
David Howard suffered 'systematic' racial harassment
A black soldier awarded 171,000 by a tribunal has spoken of how he was the victim of a systematic campaign of racial discrimination and harassment.

Staff Sgt David Howard, now living in Newcastle, said that his problems only started after he was posted to Germany.

There he was called names, ostracised at functions, and found racist emails about himself, and his wife and family.

He was medically discharged after serving in the army for 20 years, and took them to an employment tribunal.

Mr Howard, now 39, joined the army when he was 17. He said his troubles began in 2000.

"Before then I had never had a problem. To get on in the army you have to put up with a certain amount of banter, whether you are white, black, Scottish or Welsh. But this was the first time I ever had to put up with a systematic approach to it," he told Today.

I put all my faith into the institution I had been in since I was a boy, but the first time I requested support from them, they just put up the shutters
David Howard

He was nicknamed "Bubba" after a black character in the film Forrest Gump, branded a "fat hairy bear", and teased about his sex life.

Then one day, whilst sitting at his boss's desk, he discovered a spoof job application, supposedly filled in by himself, containing comments about his wife, who is white.

Throughout all this, he said he received no support or protection from his superiors.

"I put all my faith into the institution I had been in since I was a boy, but the first time I requested support from them, they just put up the shutters. There was no support whatsoever for my wife, or my family or myself for three years.

"Basically, it destroyed my life."

Mr Howard was eventually medically discharged, and now suffers from depression and agoraphobia.

Zero tolerance

He claimed racial discrimination, and an employment tribunal was held in Newcastle in March last year.

The MoD conceded that he had been a victim of racial harassment and discrimination and were ordered to pay him 171,000 in compensation, and to meet his legal costs.

In a statement the MoD said: "The Army has a zero tolerance policy on racial harassment. The Army's equality and diversity policies have been judged to be the best in the Public Sector for the last four years by the organisation Race for Opportunity.

"Regrettably, in an organisation of the size of the Army, we are mindful that isolated incidents can occur, but we are not complacent about this. We will be carefully reviewing the outcome of ex-SSgt Howard's case so that any necessary changes to our policies and to our investigations procedures are implemented."

Mr Howard said he would not necessarily advise any young black man thinking of joining the army not to do so.

"I'd say to them it can be a good life, but once a problem arises you are going to get no support. They are going to put up the shutters, and not protect you."



Race case soldier wins 171,000
02 Feb 05 |  Tyne/Wear


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