The barracks were established, on the site of the former RAF Bassingbourn airfield, in January 1970, as the new Depot for the Queen’s Division. The depot was responsible for training recruits undergoing their 19-week basic training before joining a regular battalion; in 1993 the Barracks were re-designated the home of the “Army Training Regiment, Bassingbourn” and remained as such for nearly 20 years. Bassingbourn Barracks closed as an army training location in August 2012.
Libyan cadet scandal
In June 2014, the barracks reopened to train Libyan troops. Although nearby residents were originally informed that the Libyan cadets would only be permitted to leave the base on escorted visits the rules were subsequently relaxed. Shortly afterwards, a number of complaints of sexual assault were made against some of the trainees. Five were later charged with a series of sexual offences against both women and men: of these, two appeared before Cambridge Magistrates’ Court and admitted carrying out a series of assaults on women in Cambridge’s Market Square area on 26 October 2014, two were charged with raping a man in Cambridge, and the fifth was charged with three counts of sexual assault. As a result, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) decided to terminate the training programme early, saying in a statement in November 2014: “Training was initially expected to last until the end of November but we have agreed with the Libyan government that it is best for all involved to bring forward the training completion date. The recruits will be returning to Libya in the coming days”. It was also discovered that a further five of the trainees had applied for asylum in the UK.
On 15 May 2015, two Libyan cadets were jailed for 12 years each for raping a man in Cambridge in a prolonged attack in Christ’s Pieces, a park in the city centre. Following the sentencing, Andrew Lansley, the South Cambridgeshire MP at the time that the attacks took place, told the BBC “mistakes had been made” adding that he hoped the sentencing would provide some “redress” and acknowledging that “discipline inside the base really fell apart”. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it “condemned” the incidents adding that such training “will not be repeated at Bassingbourn. Following the conclusion of the training the prime minister tasked the MoD with producing a report on the programme and the defence secretary has now presented its findings to the House of Commons”.
After the rape trial verdicts were returned, it was revealed that three other Libyans cadets had already pleaded guilty to unrelated sex attacks which had taken place in Cambridge on the same night. They had been sentenced at Norwich Crown Court on 13 May but reporting restrictions had been in place until the rape case was concluded. Of the three defendants, one admitted two counts of sexual assault and the theft of a bicycle and was jailed for 12 months; the second admitted three counts of sexual assault, one count of exposure and the theft of a bicycle and was jailed 10 months; the third admitted two counts of sexual assault, one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and the theft of a bicycle and was jailed for 10 months. All three were put on the sex offender register for 10 years.