Mixed-race soldier, 48, sues MOD for £100,000 claiming he was forced from his job after being compared to Scaramanga’s henchman Nick Nack by a comrade
Posted on November 6th, 2019

Courtesy  RICHARD SPILLETT FOR MAILONLINE

  • Former TA reservist launches High Court claim over alleged racist taunts
  • His lawyer tells court that comrades acted as if ‘it was 20 or 30 years ago’
  • Army vehemently denies racism in its ranks, saying the comments were ‘banter’
  • The issue is set to be decided by a High Court judge following £100k claim

A soldier of Sri Lankan heritage who says he was subjected to racist taunts in the Army and compared to James Bond character Nick Nack is suing the MoD for £100,000.

Mark De Kretser, who is of mixed race, said he suffered racist bullying at the Norfolk base of the 7th Infantry Brigade, often dubbed ‘the Desert Rats’.

He says he was compared to Nick Nack, from the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun, and referred to as ‘Apu’, the Indian shop owner from The Simpsons.

The 48-year-old father-of-four, of Wroxham, Norfolk, was medically discharged due to mental stress in 2017, but has since launched a claim for £100,000 in damages over his alleged treatment.

Lawyers for the MoD told London’s High Court that the comments made were just ‘banter’ and were said in the ‘spirit of jest’.

Launching Mr De Kretser’s claim at the court, his barrister Christopher Hough said: ‘This was a bunch of white men in their 40s who were pretending in their way that the Equality Act hadn’t been passed and that tolerance of racism is still the same now as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

‘By its defence to this claim, the MoD invites the court to turn the clock back to an earlier age, where “banter” was considered acceptable.’

He says he was repeatedly called the names of black and Asian characters from TV shows

He says he was repeatedly called the names of black and Asian characters from TV shows

The court heard Mr De Kretser comes from a military family, with his ancestors fighting in both World Wars. He is ‘very proud’ of his Sir Lankan heritage, said Mr Hough.

He joined the cadets at 11, then became a member of the TA in 1988, eventually becoming a full-time colour sergeant based at the Thetford unit in 2013.

During his time as a reservist, he was deployed abroad several times, serving in Iraq, Cyprus and Afghanistan, Judge Graham Robinson was told.

But, his barrister said, between 2013 and 2015 Mr De Kretser was subjected to a campaign of bullying at Thetford.

The Army says the comments were all military 'banter' and Sergeant Kevin McHenry (pictured), who referred to Mr De Kretser as Cosby Show character Dr Huxtable, says he was a friend of Mr De Kretser

The Army says the comments were all military ‘banter’ and Sergeant Kevin McHenry (pictured), who referred to Mr De Kretser as Cosby Show character Dr Huxtable, says he was a friend of Mr De Kretser

It involved ‘humiliating, insulting and grindingly repetitive jokes, often based on his mixed race,’ said Mr Hough.

Among others, he was compared to Bill Cosby’s Dr Huxtable character from The Cosby Show, Gary Coleman from 80s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and British-Cypriot dance duo Stavros Flatley, from Britain’s Got Talent.

Some of the mockery occurred in cartoon posters, depicting him as Nick Nack and Stavros Flatley, which were pinned on a notice board in the base, he said.

‘The only common characteristic is race and ethnic origin,’ said Mr Hough.

‘The only link to Mr De Kretser is because he is of mixed race. Mocking people in posters in public places because of their mixed race is not acceptable.’

He showed comrades a family tree which showed he had Dutch Berger ancestry, but another soldier alleged told him: ‘There must be some sort of c**n in your family to be the colour you are….F**k off trying to tell me that you’re white,’ the court heard.

The MoD fiercely denies that incident occurred and denies there was any ‘aggressive or vindictive name-calling’ in the unit.

Sgt Kevin McHenry, who admitted putting up the Nick Nack and Stavros Flatley posters and who referred to Mr De Kretser as Dr Huxtable, considered he was his best friend.

The posters were ‘good-natured and formed part of an overall context of camaraderie and banter,’ while the Dr Huxtable reference came from Mr De Kretser first, said MoD barrister, Niazi Fetto.

He says the incidents happened while he was at the 7th Infantry Brigade base in Norfolk

He says the incidents happened while he was at the 7th Infantry Brigade base in Norfolk

MoD lawyer Mr Fetto added: ‘Mr De Kretser paints a picture of a group of men who singled him out for different, adverse treatment.

‘The reality was the opposite: he was welcomed and included by the unit, within which a degree of banter and badinage was the norm.’

He claimed: ‘He was, moreover, an initiator of such banter and badinage and actively engaged in name-calling and the use of salty language.

‘He did not display sensitivity to such behaviour, but rather ease and comfort with it. On occasions, he took it too far.’

He continued: ‘There was no racial aspect or motivation to his colleagues’ dealings with him.’

Mr De Kretser’s High Court compensation claim includes claims for lost earnings and the loss of his military pension. He claims he would otherwise have continued in the forces.

The case continues.

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