Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Liberty calls for public inquiry into Deepcut abuses

Liberty calls for public inquiry into Deepcut abuses


Witnesses deserve chance to speak out about their experiences to protect future recruits, says military claims lawyer

Liberty has written to the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, to request a public inquiry into physical and sexual abuse at the Deepcut barracks.

An inquest verdict into the 1995 death of 18 year old Private Cheryl James last month uncovered the culture of sexualised behaviour at the base after evidence from over 100 witnesses was heard.

His Honour Judge Brian Barker QC ruled that Pte James, who died from a 'self-inflicted' shot, had not been unlawfully killed. However, the coroner criticised the army's serious failures to ensure a duty of care at the barracks.

Following the inquest, two BBC documentaries highlighted the physical violence and sexual abuse that many servicemen and women had suffered at the camp.

Liberty lawyer, Emma Norton, who represents the family of James, had said the scope of the inquest was too narrow to 'shine a light on the real issues'.

On the prospect of a public inquiry, Norton said: 'The fact that these allegations were never properly investigated continues to cast a long and shameful shadow over the British Army and undermines genuine attempts at reform.

'Without a public inquiry, those who describe serious assaults and other abuse at Deepcut will not have any chance to speak out about those experiences. They deserve to have them acknowledged, see those responsible held to account and know that lessons really are being learnt so other young recruits do not suffer in this way again.'

In a guest blog for Liberty, Des James, Pte James's father, called for the stories and the culture that allowed the abuse to flourish to be exposed.

'The MoD has wasted many years avoiding a public inquiry into Deepcut and even denying that an abusive culture existed until very recently.

'These are years that could have been used to reassure parents of future recruits, and years that could have been used compassionately to listen to and offer comfort to those recruits whose young lives have been so dreadfully affected.

'A public inquiry may finally draw a line under this dark stain on the reputation of the British Army.'