Royal Military Police officer jailed for sexual assault after court martial

Dominic Nicholls
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire.  - Solent News & Photo Agency

A Royal Military Police officer was today jailed for sexually assaulting a junior officer while she slept.

Captain Thomas Harding, 31, branded his victim a 'spoilsport' because she refused to kiss him and later removed her trousers and twice touched her intimately as she slept.

Harding had convinced his colleague into sharing a bed with him while on a training course together, having unsuccessfully tried to seduce her at a fancy dress party days before.

Today the disgraced officer was dismissed from the Army and jailed for 15 months after being convicted of two counts of sexual assault. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for 10 years.

Harding and his victim had met around three and a half weeks before the incident at Chicksands, Beds, the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre.

Bulford Military Court, Wilts, heard the pair were at a pirate-themed fancy dress party hosted by the Royal Navy as part of the tri-service course when he first tried to seduce her.

After the bar closed, Harding went upstairs and was talking to the alleged victim outside her room.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "After a while he came towards me and tried to kiss me and I laughed it off and essentially told him I am not in the sport of shagging people I work with.

"I basically said 'begone sir, begone' and I think he made a joke about me being such a spoilsport or something like that."

In the morning there was no ill feeling between the pair and they went out with another friend to a restaurant to “cure their hangovers”.

A few days later, they were drinking in the victim's bedroom before deciding to go to sleep, at which point Harding stripped down to his boxer shorts and tried to convince the victim to do likewise.

She said: "He said 'why don't you take your jeans off?' and I replied, 'because at this point they are basically like a human condom - I'm not taking them off'.

"I wasn't fearful, I just didn't really want to take them off. He took them off playfully and although I had said no, I didn't think it was anything malicious at that point."

After falling asleep the junior officer woke to find Harding sexually assaulting her.

She said: "I remember turning around and being like 'what are you doing?'.

"I thought maybe I had been dreaming and maybe I had imagined it. At that point I should have told him to leave.”

After a second incident that night she said: "I just could not work out what was happening. I said to him 'what are you doing?' and pushed him off."

She added: "I think past the possibility of doubt I had made it clear to him that I did not want a sexual relationship.

"In my mind we weren't sleeping together that night, we weren't going to be sleeping together on that course, I'm not just saying this to be by the book. I wouldn't have done it."

During the week-long trial Harding had argued the victim had instigated sexual contact by “grinding sexually against him”, but was not believed.