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Former RAF serviceman dismissed for being gay details 'horrendous' physical abuse

Simon Hinchley-Robson says he was tortured by members of the RAF's special investigations branch in 1986.

2022-01-12

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

A former RAF serviceman, who was dismissed from organisation in 1986 for being gay, is fighting to get his full pension alleging he was tortured by the air force for four days.

Simon Hinchley-Robson says he was tortured by members of the RAF's special investigations branch at an airbase in west Wales. His local MP, Labour's Clive Efford, read his story to the UK's House of Commons on Monday (10 January)

Mr. Hinchley-Robson was serving at RAF Brawdy in Haverfordwest, Wales when he became ill and requested an HIV test. Doctors at the base sent him away for the test and arrested him upon his return 10 days later. Mr. Efford said it was taken as an admission that his constituent was gay by requesting the test in the first place.

"I was immediately searched, asked to strip, and searched internally"

Mr. Efford read out Mr. Hinchley-Robson's account in Parliament, which described spending four days in an interrogation room as "the most horrendous and awful experience no one should ever have had to endure," where he was denied food, sleep, and only given small amounts of water.

"I was immediately searched, asked to strip, and searched internally. They said that this was procedure. As a young 21-year-old, terrified, what do you think was going through my mind?"

Mr. Hinchley-Robson was asked to list everyone in the RAF he'd had a relationship with, which he refused, which led to him being assaulted, stripped, and internally searched again. He says he was subjected to "what I can only say was 'RAPE'"

The Special Investigation Branch then apparently searched his belongings, including personal letters which investigators said was to check Mr. Hinchley-Robson, who points out he was a chef, wasn't being blackmailed or giving away state secrets.

Mr. Hinchley-Robson said that every four hours when there was a shift change he was "searched, told to strip, medical gloves on, internal searches again," adding he's convinced this was being done for "pure sadistic satisfaction".

He details being slapped for not helping provides names of people, as well as spat on. At one point he was told: "We don’t have gays in HM Royal Air Force" and that he was the "lowest level of life."

The arrival of a new female doctor ended the interrogation and he was sent home while waiting for his discharge from the service. 

Mr. Efford said Mr. Hinchley-Robson wasn't out to his family at the time and risked being outed because of his dismissal and was left suicidal. He has apparently told Mr. Efford that other serviceman who experienced similar treatment had taken their own lives. 

Mr. Hinchley-Robson and Mr. Efford are calling for the former RAF serviceman to get his compensation and his full pension, which he lost out on after being discharged. They also want a public apology and recognition that what happened was wrong. 

Responding to Mr. Efford in the Commons, the Treasury Minister, Alan Mak, said what had happened was "inexcusable" and it had "unfairly tainted a promising career." He also advised Mr. Hinchley-Robson to make a formal claim with the Ministry of Defence (MOD)

Last February, the MOD said gay men sacked for their sexual orientation could get their medals back. The historic ban on being gay in the military was not lifted until 2000. 

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