Soldier who groped female colleague's bottom is dismissed from forces

Army soldier who groped a female colleague’s bottom at St Patrick’s Day parade after-party attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales is dismissed from the forces

  • LCpl Shane Ritchie, from Belfast, was handed a 2 year service community order
  • The father-of-two, 26, was ‘really drunk’ when he grabbed the woman’s bottom

A British Army soldier has been dismissed from the forces for groping a female colleague’s bottom at the after-party of a St Patrick’s Day parade attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Lance Corporal Shane Ritchie, 26, was described as being ‘really drunk’ when he cupped the woman’s bottom after sliding his hand down her back as he squeezed past her to go for a cigarette.

The father-of-two from Belfast was also handed a two year service community order following a two day trial. A judge told him after he was sentenced that the harassment of women in the armed forces ‘must stop.’

Giving evidence, the female soldier – who cannot be named for legal reasons – said her mental health has since ‘suffered’ and she feels like ‘the whole regiment turned its back on me’.

In what was the Irish Guards’ first regimental day celebration since the pandemic, LCpl Ritchie was reported as ‘slurring his words’ before grabbing her behind, a trial heard.

Lance Corporal Shane Ritchie, 26, pictured outside Bulford Military Court Centre

Prince William and Kate Middleton pictured attending the 1st Battalion Irish Guards’ St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Mons Barracks when they were known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Earlier in the day, the regiment had welcomed Prince William and Kate Middleton – then known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – as guests of honour for a traditional ceremony where Kate had presented sprigs of shamrock to members of the battalion on parade. 

After the celebrations at Mons Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, in March last year, LCpl Ritchie’s ‘creeping’ hand grabbed the bottom of his fellow soldier.

The 25-year-old denied the charge, claiming that only his shoulder ‘brushed’ her and if there had been contact it was accidental and therefore not sexual.

Discussing the moment she was introduced to LCpl Ritchie at the St Patrick’s Day celebration, the female soldier she said: ‘He was really drunk. He looked like he couldn’t really stand up properly, couldn’t really focus his eyes on anything and when he spoke, he slurred his words.

 ‘After I shook his hand, he said “I’ve got a missus” but I wasn’t interested, so I left.’ 

She told the court she returned to some nearby sofas in the room to talk to a friend when she felt the sexual assault take place.

‘I felt someone come behind me and put a hand on my shoulder, slide their hand creeping down my back and then I felt them cup my bum,’ she said.

‘As soon as I felt that, I turned to the side and saw it was [LCpl Ritchie] and just pushed him away. I said something like “Get the f*** off me, don’t you dare touch me’.

‘It felt really deliberate, I could feel the pressure. It was a firm touch – a grab.’

LCpl Ritchie has been dismissed from the forces and handed a two year service community order

The court heard she left the bar with a friend and immediately reported the incident to her chain of command – having texted the Regimental Sergeant Major personally and asked to see him the next week.

When it was put to her that ‘not everyone’ in the Irish Guards – which has only accepted women in full time combat roles since 2018 – was ‘not particularly enlightened or welcoming’ to women, she agreed.

She told the court she was ‘unhappy’ in her unit and considered it a ‘hostile’ environment to work.

She also told the court had been told by a different colleague that ‘the Army is a man’s world’. 

In a victim impact statement, the woman said: ‘My mental health suffered after the incident.’

Sentencing LCpl Ritchie, Assistant Judge Advocate General Jane England told him his behaviour was ‘inexcusable’.

‘She went to the St Patrick’s Day parade to fit in, unfortunately, she suffered more harassment from you,’ she said.

‘This is not the first time female service personnel have been made to feel unwelcome. Such behaviour must stop, females should be treated with the same respect. This was unsolicited, drunken sexual conduct.’

In mitigation, defence barrister Matthew Bolt said: ‘LCpl Ritchie’s life is destroyed. He’s lost his job, his career and his good name. This could be characterised as a moment of madness.

‘He has two young children and a long-term partner… he has now secured an apprenticeship as a sprayer.’

Ritchie was also ordered to complete 60 hours of unpaid work.

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