Three suspects of indecent assault, which took place at the naval base in Den Helder, risk up to 3 months’ imprisonment. The Public Prosecutor has demanded this from the Court in Arnhem on Monday 13 July. As there have been more incidents, the Central Organisation for Defence Integrity has launched an investigation.

A young sailor made the switch to the Dutch submarine Dolphin. New to the group, he became the target of harassment, he declared. On 17 May 2018, he was pushed to the ground in the canteen at the naval base by two men, after which a third man lowered his trousers and hit the sailor’s body with his penis, according to the report. The suspect also lay down on top of the sailor and made ‘sexual movements’.

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee launched a major investigation. Telephone taps were placed, an observation team kept an eye on the three of them, and bugging equipment was placed in hotel New York in Rotterdam, where the three came together regularly. Two corporals were witnesses, but they were very reticent in their statements.

From the phone taps it became clear that the three suspects had matched their statements. When Nicky G. (28) was confronted with those tap conversations, he admitted that they wanted to blame the victim. 35-year-old Raymond van de P. is a sergeant. He was the highest ranking officer of the three suspects. He’s accused of ordering the victim to orally satisfy G. or take a hammer in his mouth. The victim subsequently put his teeth into the hammer.

The three suspects described the incident as horseplay. One of them, Corporal Joseph M. (28), also said: ‘It was the culture within the submarine service.’ They said that only afterwards did they notice that the victim did not like it. Van de P. denies having had a leading role. The three men have been suspended since May 2018, but are formally still in military service.

Investigation into ‘flawed culture’

The prosecutor said there are too many incidents within the armed forces. ‘A flawed culture is perpetuated.’ He demanded 3 months of military detention against Van de P. The other two defendants both face 120 hours of community service and 2 weeks’ probationary military detention. Military detention is not much different from a regular prison sentence, but convicted people will serve their sentences in a military prison.

Last week, the Dutch Central Organisation for Defence Integrity (COID) announced it would launch an investigation into the culture within the Submarine Service. This culture  is suspected of having a negative impact on a socially safe working and living environment. For a number of young soldiers who wanted to work in the Submarine Service at the beginning of this year, it was probably also the reason to choose to work elsewhere in the Navy.

Over the past 2 years there have been a total of 4 official reports of undesirable behaviour by colleagues of the Submarine Service. In 2 cases, this led to a report being filed with the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. This includes the case above. The last report dates from Friday 3 July. A soldier has also been suspended in this case. In May this year there were also reports of sexual offences on board of the navy’s Karel Doorman.

As far as Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy Vice Admiral Rob Kramer is concerned, everyone in the Navy must be able to count on a safe working and living environment: ‘An environment in which we treat each other with respect and in which we call each other to account for unacceptable behaviour. We have received signals of undesirable behaviour from the Submarine Service. I take that very seriously and so we take steps. At the same time, I am pleased that people report these kinds of situations. That’s important, because this allows us to do something about it.’

Investigation delayed due to Covid-19

In connection with the coronary measures, it has proved difficult for the COID to conduct personal interviews in recent months. As a result, the investigation has been somewhat delayed. The findings are expected after the summer. In the meantime, talks are being held within the Submarine Service on the right way of dealing with each other. Staff are encouraged to speak to each other about undesirable behaviour and to report this if it occurs.

Source (in part): ANP