THE parents of Private Cheryl James have said a new inquest into her death at Deepcut Barracks is “20 years too late”.
Des and Doreen James, from Llanymynech, have spent nearly two decades tirelessly campaigning for the hearing after a previous inquest recorded an open verdict after the 18-year-old from Llangollen was found with a single gunshot wound to the face at the Surrey barracks in November 1995.
She was one of four soldiers who died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse.
But on Friday two High Court judges, Mr Justice Mitting and Judge Peter Thornton QC, quashed the verdict saying there had been “an insufficiency of inquiry”.
In a statement, Mr and Mrs James, who have worked with human rights campaigners Liberty to get the new inquest, said they were “delighted” with the order, but continued: “There is no celebration. We cannot celebrate a meaningful inquiry into Cheryl’s death that comes almost 20 years later than it should have.”
The couple also said they would continue to question the governments who had opposed a fresh inquest, adding: “Something went terribly wrong at the Deepcut barracks and there is no evidence that anyone knows or has even bothered to find out how the culture that led to these four deaths was allowed to flourish for so long. Four people died yet not one person or organisation has ever been held accountable.”
“When our servicemen and women lose their lives while in the service of their country their death must be considered and investigated carefully with respect and dignity; not cast aside as an irritation with convenient assumptions providing an alternative for due diligence.
“The young people of this country who volunteer to defend us deserve better. We can only hope that the legacies of Sean (Benton), Cheryl, Geoff (Gray) and James (Collinson) may help secure real change to the current ineffective and discredited military justice system,” they added.
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”.
He added that the original investigation was “extremely limited and had flaws” after the fragmented bullet was not examined and later lost along with its casing, other bullets in James’ rifle and her clothing.