Three Australian Defence Force personnel have been suspended over a series of “explicit and repugnant” e-mails and messages that circulated among troops.

Lieutenant General David Morrison says the text and images demean women but he would not elaborate on the contents of the e-mails, which were allegedly produced and distributed across both defence computer systems and the Internet.

The e-mails under scrutiny are believed to have been in existence since 2010.

Another five personnel also face suspensions and nine more were under investigation, reports AFP. The allegations could lead to the men being discharged from the Army.

“I view the allegations that are being made in the gravest light,” Morrison said. He said he was “appalled at this situation” and had also apologised on behalf of the Army to several of the female victims.

The Defence Force has been working hard to clean its image after the 2011 “Skype scandal” when a male cadet having sex with a female cadet was streamed online to cadets in another room without her consent.

The Australian government has made a parliamentary apology to victims of abuse in the military and set up a compensation fund after hundreds of claims of rape and sexual assault, according to AFP.