Recorder of London to conduct new Deepcut inquest

Private Cheryl James Image copyright other
Image caption Pte Cheryl James died at Deepcut barracks in Surrey in 1995

A new inquest into the death of soldier Pte Cheryl James at Deepcut barracks in Surrey is to be conducted by the Recorder of London Brian Barker QC.

The 18-year-old from Denbighshire died in November 1995. The High Court ordered a fresh inquest in July after a challenge by her family.

Pte James was among four soldiers who died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002, sparking bullying allegations.

Judge Barker is to hold a pre-inquest review hearing in the near future.

Surrey County Council (SCC) said the date had yet to be fixed and the venue would also be announced at a later date.

The High Court ordered that the inquest held on 21 December 1995 into the death of Pte James from a gunshot wound at the Princess Royal Barracks should be quashed and a fresh inquest ordered.

The original inquest recorded an open verdict.

The Deepcut deaths

Image copyright Other
Image caption Privates Benton, James, Gray and Collinson, who all died at Deepcut
  • June 1995: Pte Sean Benton (far left), from Hastings, East Sussex, found dead with five bullet wounds to chest. Verdict: Suicide
  • November 1995: Pte Cheryl James (second left), from Llangollen, Denbighshire, found dead with single bullet wound to head. Open verdict
  • September 2001: Pte Geoff Gray (second right), from Seaham, County Durham, found dead with two gunshot wounds. Five shots were fired, three never found. Open verdict
  • March 2002: Pte James Collinson (far right), from Perth, found dead with single gunshot wound. Open verdict

Profiles of the Deepcut four

Pte James, who grew up in Llangollen, died from a single bullet wound. Her parents believe she had suffered sexual harassment and bullying.

Pte Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, was found dead with bullet wounds at the barracks in June 1995, months before Pte James's death.

In September 2001, 17-year-old Pte Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Co Durham, was found with two bullet wounds to his head, and six months later, Pte James Collinson, from Perth, also 17, was found with a single bullet wound upwards through his chin.

Mr Justice Mitting and Judge Peter Thornton QC agreed that there was "an insufficiency of inquiry" at the 1995 inquest into Pte James's death.

Judge Thornton said "the discovery of new facts or evidence" made "a fresh investigation including a fresh inquest necessary or desirable in the interests of justice".

Pte James was undergoing initial training at Deepcut when she was found dead.

Her parents Des and Doreen James, who live in Llanymynech, Powys, applied through human rights campaign group Liberty for a new inquest after the Human Rights Act was used to secure access to documents held by the authorities about the teenager's death.

Liberty said the appointment of such an "experienced, reputable criminal judge" to head the new inquest recognised how important it was to get it right.

"Under his oversight, Cheryl's loved ones really do hope they will get the rigorous, fearless investigation they've been waiting for all these years," it said.

"However, a decision has also been taken which suggests the inquest will remain in Surrey.

"This indicates the Coroner will receive police support from the local force, Surrey Police.

"Serious criticisms have been levelled at the force in relation to the Deepcut cases.

"We're working hard to ensure there can be no suggestion of a conflict of interest, or perception of a conflict."

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