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Rishi Sunak apologises to LGBT veterans for armed forces ban as report reveals ‘horrific’ historical treatment | Politics News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has apologised for the UK’s historical treatment of LGBT veterans who were sacked or forced out of the military.

It follows a damning report detailing “a vivid picture of overt homophobia at all levels of the armed forces”.

The 268-page dossier found “shocking evidence of a culture of homophobia, and of bullying, blackmail and sexual assaults”, as well as “abusive investigations into sexual orientation and sexual preference, disgraceful medical examinations, including conversion therapy, peremptory discharges”.

It said the treatment of victims had “appalling consequences in terms of mental health and wellbeing, homelessness, employment, personal relationships and financial hardship”.

The government-commissioned independent review into the service and experience of LGBT veterans who served in the armed forces between 1967 and 2000 was carried out by Lord Etherton, former master of the rolls and head of civil justice, was published on Wednesday.

His report said: “I recommend that the prime minister should deliver an apology in the UK Parliament on behalf of the nation to all those LGBT service personnel who served under and suffered from the ban (whether or not they were dismissed or discharged).”

Mr Sunak told the Commons: “The ban on LGBT people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state decades behind the law of this land.

“As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment, all while bravely serving this country.

“Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologise.”

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The prime minister added: “I hope all those affected will be able to feel proud parts of the veteran community that has done so much to keep our country safe.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was “deeply sorry” on behalf of the government and the armed forces – adding the report makes for “miserable and distressing” reading and “spotlights the hurt” felt by those affected.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party was “proud to repeal the ban” on LGBT+ personnel serving in the forces when it was in office.

“Today, we strongly welcome this apology from the Prime Minister as a recognition of their historic mistreatment,” he said.

The review also recommended an “appropriate financial award” should be made to veterans affected by the pre-2000 ban on homosexuality in the armed forces.

It said: “An appropriate financial award should be made to affected veterans notwithstanding the expiry of litigation time limits. The government’s overall exposure should be capped at £50 million.”

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The apology was welcomed by former British Army Officer Catherine Dixon, who said she had experienced shame and humiliation during the course of her military career.

Now vice-chair at charity Stonewall, she said: “Today’s apology and announcements are an important step to achieving justice for those LGBTQ+ people who served in HM Armed Forces and, like me, experienced shame, humiliation and a ruined military career because of our sexuality.

“Many were imprisoned, experienced corrective violence and lived with the stain of criminal convictions because of who they loved and which left some homeless and many unable to work.”

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