Seventeen former British army instructors have been charged with assaulting teenage recruits in Scotland.
The instructors, who are believed to be Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, face 40 charges of battery, ill-treatment and actual bodily harm, the Ministry of Defence confirmed on Saturday (12 August). If found guilty, they could go to jail.
The alleged abuse includes instructors holding their recruits' faces under water until they started choking and forcing animal faeces into their mouths during a training exercise, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The group, who all worked at the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, at the time of the alleged abuse, have denied any wrongdoing.
Colonel Richard Kemp, former British Army commander in Afghanistan, told the Sunday newspaper that the charges were "extraordinary", adding that he had never heard of "a case of this scale."
"If these charges are proven it will certainly be detrimental to the Army from a recruiting perspective," he said. "But I am incredulous as well as surprised. While there must be some aggression in recruit training, what is alleged goes far beyond what is acceptable."
Police spent more than £1 million on an investigation into the abuse claims made by six recruits, who were 17 at the time of the alleged assault.
The group will appear before the Bulford Court Martial Centre on 21 and 22 September.