Deepcut: Liberty calls for public inquiry into barracks abuse

Privates Benton, James, Gray and Collinson, who all died at Deepcut Image copyright PA
Image caption Privates Benton, James, Gray and Collinson died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002

The human rights group Liberty has called for a public inquiry into physical and sexual abuse at the Deepcut army barracks in Surrey.

It said many current and former soldiers had given accounts of suffering violence or abuse there.

A coroner recently ruled the death of Pte Cheryl James, 18, was suicide and criticised army welfare standards.

Liberty said Pte James' inquest had exposed a "toxic, violent and sexualised" culture at the barracks.

It also said other accounts of abuse at the camp emerged in two recent BBC documentaries, Deepcut - the Army's Shame, and Week In Week Out - A Family's Fight for the Truth.

It has written to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to request a "thorough and independent" inquiry on behalf of the families of Privates James, Sean Benton and James Collinson - three out of four young soldiers found dead with gunshot wounds between 1995 and 2002.

Last week Pte Benton's twin brother Tony and sister Tracey Lewis lodged an application for a fresh inquest into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A coroner attacked welfare standards at Deepcut and said there was overwhelming evidence of a sexualised atmosphere

Liberty said it was also acting for former Deepcut recruits Mark Harrison, who says he was a victim of sexual assault and rape, and Dan Griffiths, who alleges an army instructor beat him unconscious.

Mr Harrison said: "The man who did this to me was known by the Army to be a risk to young people because he committed sexual offences before he came to Deepcut.

"His actions changed my life forever and I still struggle deeply today as a consequence.

"I want to be heard and I want to be assured that this could never happen again."

Pte James' father, Des said: "The MoD has wasted many years avoiding a public inquiry into Deepcut and even denying an abusive culture existed until very recently.

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

Liberty said in 2002-3 Surrey Police compiled a dossier of 118 "duty of care and bullying issues", mainly at Deepcut.

An independent review in 2006 by Nicholas Blake QC concluded there was no need for a public inquiry.

In a statement, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: ""We believe in the importance of transparency through any method deemed most appropriate, and we have not objected to any of the further Deepcut inquests raised to date.

"However Sir Nicholas Blake's review concluded a public inquiry into the circumstances at Deepcut barracks was not necessary, and this view was shared by the House of Commons Defence Committee."

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