World Naval News
New York Times - Ships and Shipping
Thursday, 3 October 2013
Royal Navy sailor detained for sex attack on warship
3 Oct 2013 00:00
Able Seaman Ratu Ralawa, 40, arrived “hung over” at work and groped a colleague’s breasts
three times in a small room
Scene of attack: HMS Westminster
A married Royal Navy sailor was yesterday given six months detention and ordered to pay £300 to a female colleague he groped on a warship.
Able Seaman Ratu Ralawa, 40, sexually assaulted the woman when he touched her breasts in three separate incidents as they went about their duties.
Judge Michael Hunter and five other officials said they would not dismiss Ralawa from her majesty’s service.
Instead they decided that each assault was worthy of a six-month detention to run concurrently.
Ralawa will serve two-thirds of the time in a military detention centre before he is eligible to return to duty.
The panel at the court martial in Portsmouth, Hants, also felt a compensation payment was in order because of the distress to the victim.
Judge Hunter said: “Taking into account your family and how they are dependent on your income, the payment is much less than what is appropriate.
“The amount will be taken from your paycheque on your release from detention and will be paid in stages.”
The victim claimed she felt “absolutely terrified” as father-of-three Ralawa made his unwanted advances on the frigate HMS Westminster.
He had turned up late for work “hungover” and “dishevelled” with “very bloodshot” eyes and slurring his words after a night out drinking.
The court found him guilty of three charges of sexual assault, but acquitted him of two further charges of sexual assault on the same victim later that day.
Matthew Farmer, defending, said Ralawa had references from colleagues saying he was “well respected, responsible, hard working and bright.”
Ralawa also admitted in a pre-sentence report that he had an issue with alcohol which he needed to address.
Mr Farmer said: “The incident was something of a one-off and although there are three counts, they all happened at the same time.
“Mr Ralawa can also be considered to have a low risk of reoffending and his conviction of sexual touching is of the lowest scale.
“I urge you to let him return to serve in the navy. This is his biggest wish.
“Justice can be met by preserving his presence in the Royal Navy and a custodial sentence would not be appropriate.”
Lt colonel Richard Allen, prosecuting, said: “The victim has since had difficulty socialising with males and is unable to be left in the presence of unknown males.
“She now has to sit near the exit doors of rooms in case she needs to make a quick exit.
“She is now more reserved and is scared to be by herself and has been struggling to sleep ever since.
“She said ‘a day doesn’t go by where I don’t think of that incident’.”
Colleagues on board noticed the woman - described as a “bright, chatty and smiley” worker and a “pleasure to have around” - appeared “very upset.”
This was after Ralawa had approached her as they worked alone together in a small room.
This incident, which happened shortly after 7am, lasted between 30 seconds to one-and-a-half minutes.
She asked Ralawa to stop “at least three or four times” before finally managing to push him away and left the room to carry out a task next door.
Giving evidence from behind a screen during the trial, the victim said: “I repeated at least three or four times for him to stop it and leave me alone.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reported the incident on April 17 last year after an officer spotted her looking upset.
In Royal Navy Police interviews, Ralawa said he touched his colleague under the ribs from behind and asked her to move aside.
Mr Ralawa had two absences without leave in October 2009 and one matter of drunkenness in February 2009.
On that occasion he returned on board HMS Ark Royal at 5.30am drunk but was not reported as being disorderly or unable to do his duty.
However, none of the previous matters were taken into account as the judge and five officers considered the sentence.
Source: Daily Mirror, UK.
Santiago Alejandro Mac Culloch
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Royal Navy sailor detained for sex attack on warship.
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