Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, apologised and said he was “appalled” by the squadron’s behaviour
Sexual harassment and bullying were “widespread and normalised” in the RAF’s Red Arrows display team, a report looking into the unit’s “toxic culture” has found.
A non-statutory inquiry, launched in 2021, found that harassment was directed predominantly towards women and would have created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
In some instances, women were treated as “property” by individuals or by a squadron – and some formed groups known as “shark watch” to protect themselves in a social gathering with male members of the display team.
According to the report, the Red Arrows had loyalty to some individuals and dismissed some of their behaviour because they “did not want to ruin someone’s career”.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, apologised and said he was “appalled” by the squadron’s behaviour.
The report added that it was highly likely women had to deal with unwanted physical contact, unwanted sexual text messages, comments about their appearance and invitations to have sex.
Two incidents of exposure of genitals were also reported to the inquiry review team.
The report also said that women would go to social situations as a group and would limit the amount of alcohol they drank.
Offering his apology for the behaviour documented in the report, Sir Rich said: “I want first to say that I am sorry and offer my unreserved apologies to any individuals that were subjected to unacceptable behaviours during their association with the Red Arrows, particularly the three women who felt they had no option but to raise their complaints directly with my predecessor.
“The reports show that during the period investigated, unacceptable behaviours were widespread and ‘normalised’ on the Red Arrows.
“These included sexual harassment, bullying and an alcohol-focused culture.
“The situation was compounded by a ‘bystander culture’, meaning people did not challenge what was happening.
“The behaviours described by witnesses in the reports have no place in the Royal Air Force or anywhere else.
“The findings of the investigations are clear.
“Actions have been taken against a number of individuals, up to and including dismissal from the Service.
“I was appalled when I read the investigations’ findings.
“The behaviour of a minority of individuals has harmed the Squadron’s reputation and that of the Royal Air Force.
“Like my predecessor, I am intent on rebuilding public trust in one of our highest profile units.
“I know that the current team is working hard to do just that.
“The leadership, air and ground crews of the Red Arrows have undergone many changes since the period covered by the investigations, with few still serving on the Squadron from that time.
“I have confidence in the command and people of the current Squadron.
“More broadly, I would like to make it very clear today that, where appropriate, I will not hesitate to use the most severe sanctions available to me to deal with those whose behaviour harms others.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub