Devon

Royal Marine corporal sentenced for ill-treating recruits

Lympstone commando training centre
Image caption Cpl Peter Clark, based at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, admitted three offences

A Royal Marine drill instructor who ill-treated new recruits, including hitting one in the groin with a stick, has been fined for his actions.

Corporal Peter Clark pleaded guilty to three offences of ill-treating subordinates at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon.

A court martial at Portsmouth Naval Base heard he used a pace stick to hit the recruit in the testicles.

The 39-year-old was given a severe reprimand and fined £1,750.

On Monday, Clark admitted hitting Marine Recruit (MR) Joshua Croxford with the stick on 30 June last year.

He also admitted two earlier incidents, in which he grabbed MR Matthew Scott round the throat on 19 May and hit MR Adam Lushman in the face with a pair of combat boots on 9 June.

A panel of three senior officers determined the sentence handed out to Clark.

'Over-zealousness'

Sentencing him, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said that while young commandos and marines have to be trained to a very high standard, "there is no place in training for physical and mental abuse".

The judge added that although serious, Clark's behaviour was not severe enough to warrant a custodial sentence or a demotion in rank.

"It is clear from what we have heard, what you did was out of genuine over-zealousness and you had the interest of the corps at your heart," he said.

Lt Col Nigel Heppenstall, prosecuting, said that the three charges were specimen counts, each representing several offences.

He said the incident with the pace stick took place during a parade drill.

MR Croxford had glanced to the right when ordered to "dress to left", which was noticed by Clark.

"He (Clark) said 'why are you looking to the right? Is it your boyfriend? Do you love him?" Col Heppenstall said.

"He replied 'no corporal' and kept his eyes to the left as required."

The court heard MR Croxford did not see Clark approaching and was then struck in the groin, causing him to "instantly feel sick with pain".

'Techniques as expected'

During the incident involving MR Phelps-Scott the court heard Clark grabbed him with enough pressure to "hinder his breathing".

The third charge related to a room inspection when Clark struck MR Lushman in the face with his combat boots because they had mud on the soles.

The drill instructor was described as "angry, red-faced, teeth-clenched and had a very stern look".

Clark's actions came to light when his commanding officer took over a drill training session.

The relief shown by the recruits prompted the officer to launch an inquiry.

Stephen Smyth, defending, said that while Clark had been over-zealous in his efforts to install discipline in a failing troop, many of the recruits felt that his techniques were "as to be expected" from the training course.

Clark had gained medals for serving in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and had also been awarded the jubilee, long service, good conduct and UN peacekeeping medals.

The corporal was due to stand trial on 14 charges, but following his three guilty pleas, the prosecution offered no evidence on the other charges.

Judge Advocate Gen Jeff Blackett formally found him not guilty of those 11 charges.

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