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Chaplain says 'sex attack' was consensual.

A FORMER Glamorgan University student who used his position as an Air Training Corps (ATC) honorary chaplain and 18 months' experience with the Territorial Army to run an unofficial training operation has denied carrying out a sexual assault at camp.

A jury at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard that Howard Ian March, 40, stripped his victim before whipping him with a riding crop during the trip to the Brecon Beacons to hone military skills. It had not been officially sanctioned by the ATC.

Ieuan Bennett, prosecuting, said: "The complainant did not know what was going on. He had had no forewarning of it and had not agreed to it and had no control over what was happening."

In a search of March's home at Church Street, Milton Keynes, officers discovered images of people being whipped and harmed. March has denied sexual assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm between May 1 and September 2, 2009.

The court was told March had organised the expedition for the bank holiday weekend in August 2009 essentially to carry out manoeuvres but also included resistance to interrogation exercises in which nakedness was key.

His victim, then in his teens but now aged 20, told the jury that he was pinned down and stripped against his will by March, who assaulted him with co-defendant, 20-year-old air cadet Joshua Maye, also of Church Street, Milton Keynes, before being ordered to stand in a "stress position". Maye has denied assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The alleged victim claimed he had been dragged from his sleeping bag in the early hours of the morning after being awoken by his attacker with a firework. He was then ordered to lean on a tent pole facing a tree as he held another pole between his fingertips behind his back. Dropping either pole resulted in him being struck with the riding crop.

When the whipping eventually stopped the sobbing teen was comforted before being given back his clothes and given a hot drink.

He claimed that he had known nothing of March's intentions, but the self-appointed military operation leader told the jury that he had been a willing participant and had asked to take part in a mock interrogation operation after seeing the film Bravo Two Zero - a British war movie that follows an SAS platoon. Furthermore, he said the code word "smarties" had been agreed to end the operation.

March, who did his degree and masters at Glamorgan University and is a qualified first aider with St John's Ambulance, said all actions had been consensual.

The case continues.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 18, 2011
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