Three Royal Marines have been sentenced to military detention for their part in an initiation ceremony which involved subjecting a colleague to “40 minutes of depravity and naked humiliation”.
Carlo Nicholson, who was made to drink from a paddling pool full of urine and vomit, said he was left feeling suicidal following the “joining run” event – watched by 80 drunken men – and carried out by 45 Commando, based at Royal Marine Condor in Arbroath in May 2014.
Marine Ian Tennet, 22, Lance Corporal Scott Simm, 26, and James Taylor, 27, who is now a lance corporal in the Royal Marines Reserves, were all sentenced for a charge of ill-treatment of a subordinate.
Tennet was sentenced to 11 months and two weeks’ detention, while Simm and Taylor were both sentenced to eight months.
A fourth defendant, former Marine Ryan Logan, 25, was sentenced to 220 hours of unpaid community work for battery and disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind.
Sentencing the defendants at Portsmouth Naval Base’s court martial centre, Judge Advocate Robert Hill said the event had been “40 minutes of depravity and naked humiliation”.
He said: “The suggestion has been made it was nothing more than a rite of passage, and its purpose was not to humiliate, harm or distress but to harness bonding, and is something all Royal Marines Commandos have gone through – but it’s no more than conduct that brings disgrace on the Commandos involved.”
He said the defendants had been described during the court hearing as “scapegoats” and added: “It is not the purpose of this court to set itself up as a board of inquiry.
“It has been noted with considerable concern that more senior non-commissioned officers haven’t found their way to the court martial system. Had they done so the likely position they would face is a starting point of a term of imprisonment.”
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Nicholson, who is suing the Ministry of Defence over his treatment, said: “The incident has left me feeling like I just want to be alone and I am pushing people away. This includes my girlfriend and daughter.
“As a direct result I have been having suicidal thoughts.
“I feel like the water-boarding was the point where I snapped because it was a physical fear and I was panicked.”
The victim, who has since left the service, added: “I have completely lost my faith in the brotherhood of the corps.
“When I first joined the marines, I intended to make a career out of it. However, I do not feel I can go back to work because wherever I go, I will always be that guy – the guy who reported it.”
James Bruce, representing Simm, who pleaded guilty, said: “His admissions show his remorse and maturity.”
He said that the father-of-one had continued to serve in the Royal Marines and was “highly thought of” by his commanding officer.
Kathy Bradshaw, representing Tennet who was found guilty after a trial, said that he had not become involved in the ill-treatment of Mr Nicholson out of “malice or nastiness”.
She said: “He is not a bully. He didn’t do it because he had any bad feeling towards Mr Nicholson, he didn’t do it because he thought it was degrading or meant to be humiliating.
“He did it out of a lack of judgment in an ethos that the joining run was seen by the vast majority of the other joiners as a tradition, as a bonding experience.”
Lieutenant Commander Neil MacLennan, defending Taylor, from Birmingham, who now works as a security guard for a production company and who pleaded guilty, said that he had sought to protect Mr Nicholson.
He said: “L/Cpl Taylor knew Mr Nicholson was generally disliked by the men. With a crowd of 80 drunken men surrounding this event there was a real risk that matters may have very quickly escalated.
“He wanted to keep a watchful eye on Mr Nicholson as well as he could.”
Fiona Edington, representing Logan, who pleaded guilty, said that the water-boarding was “not article three torture, it was a very, very limited incident”.
During the initiation event, described in court as a “rite of passage”, Mr Nicholson, along with other newcomers to the unit, was forced to run naked around the camp with bottles and milk and lemonade taped to his arms.
He was made to lie down in the paddling pool containing urine and vomit while eggs were thrown at him, as well as to fight other marines while naked and covered in cooking oil.
He was also made to eat dessert spoons of chill, cinnamon and curry powder, eat dog food out of a mess tin while on all fours, eat lard and swallow liquid through a funnel as well as made to consume the contents of a mess tin filled from the paddling pool which also contained a rollmop herring, lard and cider.
The court heard that Logan was solely convicted in relation to the “water-boarding incident” where he placed material over Mr Nicholson’s face and poured water over it while others watched, but he was not involved in the other offences.