Saturday 4 June 2016


Update - Addendum 6th June 2016 

Privates Sean Benton (died June 1995) - Cheryl James (died November 1995) - Geoff Gray (died September 2001) - James Collinson (died March 2002).  They were all at Deepcut Barracks and all died from gunshots - BBC News 1st February 2016.

The website Deepcut The Truth has the following about each of the soldiers - Sean Benton (5 wounds to his chest) - Cheryl Jones (a gunshot to the head) - Geoff Gray (two gunshots to the head) - James Collinson - (a gunshot to the head).

An inquest into the death of Cheryl James has just ended. 
This inquest was ordered by the High Court in 2014 and was conducted by Brian Barker QC (sitting as Nominated Coroner)- see the Inquest Factual Findings 3rd June 2016.  The inquest was Article 2 compliant (see para 3.13).  Art 2 compliance has arisen from recognition at the highest levels of the judicial system that the European Convention on Human Rights requires States to look at the circumstances in which death occurred where authorities of the State (e.g. Police or the Military) may be involved.  In the words of the Coroner: "... the circumstances in which Ms James came by her death, as well as the means by which she died, must be considered and, at very least, any causative matters included in the record of inquest."  (Note also - Coroners and Justice Act 2009 section 5).

The Coroner considered whether to make a report under Regulation 28 of the Coroners (Investigation) Regulations 2013 but decided that it was not necessary given improvements already made but he noted that the Army "has still some way to go in changing attitudes and culture" (para 65.5).

The death was recorded as suicide.  The circumstances were that Ms James was posted as a lone female guard contrary to Army Policy; the risk of self-harm to trainees during lone armed guard duty had not been adequately recognised nor had adequate steps been taken to reduce that risk.

Reaction of Cheryl James' parents:

It is reported that Ms James' parents are disappointed at the outcome of the inquest and their statement makes serious criticisms - Statement by Cheryl James' parents - and expresses the view that the "evidence did not lead to this verdict."  They find it deeply regrettable that the experiences of other young women and men were ruled out of scope at the inquest."

Concern is expressed that "some individuals have been less than truthful" and it is noted that the Commanding Officer (at the time) of Deepcut continues to deny the extent of the problems and denies any responsibility for overseeing such a brutal and abusive environment.  Counsel for Surrey Police - Mr John Beggs QC - does not escape their criticism - " ... we found Mr Beggs' approach to be unnecessarily adversarial and unpleasant." 

Further inquiry?

Former Chief of the General Staff General The Lord Dannatt agreed on TV that there should be an Inquiry into the Deepcut deaths - BBC Newsnight. Lord Dannatt was CGS from 2006-9.

In March 2006 a review conducted by Nicholas Blake QC reported - The Deepcut Review (508 pages).   Mr Blake made 34 recommendations but also recommended that a public inquiry was not necessary.  That would not of course prevent the Minister from establishing one and there appears to be a strong case for one to be held in order to understand matters such as how the culture at Deepcut developed and the extent to which bullying and sexual offences took place.  There is also a need for the public to be assured that the Army is now a better place for recruits that it was at Deepcut in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The government's response to the Deepcut Review is available and indicates that government accepted most of the recommendations and agreed that a Public Inquiry was not required (see para 8 of the government's response).

It was disappointing to note that the response said - "Recommendation 31 (availability of legal representation for families at inquests) is not readily reconciled with the general character of inquests."  According to the government response, the reasoning behind that statement is that "an inquest is an inquisitorial, non-adversarial fact finding process of limited scope which does not make findings of civil or criminal liability."  Exceptional funding may be available and an application should certainly be considered if Article 2 may be engaged- see the Guidance issued in August 2015.  The guidance followed on from the case of Letts v Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 402 (Admin).

The Defence Select Committee's Third report of session 2004-5 is also highly relevant.  

Addendum 6th June 2016:

The BBC programme (59 mins) - Deepcut: The Army's shame is available until about the end of June via iplayer.

Statement by LIBERTY 

Liberty represents the families of three of the four young recruits who died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002 – including Ptes Sean Benton and James Collinson – and will continue to seek the fresh inquests they and their families deserve.

Statement by Cheryl James' parents 

The Telegraph - General Sir Nick Carter - Deepcut tragedy will be constant reminder of the debt of care we owe recruits

No comments:

Post a Comment