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Magpie

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Public Statement

AI Index: EUR 45/008/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 079
28 March 2006


UK: Deepcut and beyond - high time for a public inquiry

In advance of the publication by Nicholas Blake QC of the report of his review of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Privates (Ptes) James Collinson, Geoff Gray, Cheryl James, and Sean Benton at the Royal Logistics Corps headquarters in Deepcut, Surrey, England, between 1995 and 2002, Amnesty International renews its call for a public inquiry.

Amnesty International noted that, on 10 March 2006, an inquest jury returned an open verdict at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Pte James Collinson. The Surrey Coroner, Michael Burgess, said:

... my own personal view.... is that the MoD [the Ministry of Defence] should take whatever steps are necessary to restore public confidence in the recruitment and training of young soldiers whether at Deepcut or elsewhere. I personally believe that they should have nothing to fear from an inquiry held in public (if that is what is necessary) where the various issues outside the direct causation of the deaths of James and others) can be explored in greater depth….

Amnesty International once again calls on the UK government to immediately set up an independent and impartial judicial inquiry held in public to probe the serious allegations that have emerged. The inquiry should invite and seek out the views of the families of the deceased and the opinions of experts. It should meet in public and publish its findings and recommendations. The inquiry needs to address and make recommendations about the context in which the deaths have taken place so that further fatalities may be prevented in the future.

In addition, Amnesty International recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the UK authorities should:

  • institute an effective, independent and impartial complaint mechanism with which complaints concerning serious allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and other ill-treatment can be lodged without fear of reprisal (e.g. a military ombudsperson); and
  • ban, in all circumstances, the recruitment -- and deployment into hostilities at all times – of people under the age of 18 years into the UK Armed Forces.


Background
In March 2002, 17-year-old James Collinson was found dead, with a single shot to the head, at the Royal Logistics Corps headquarters in Deepcut, Surrey, England. Army officials told his parents that he had committed suicide. Another 17-year-old, Geoff Gray, had also been found dead with two shots in the head at the same barracks in September 2001. An inquest into the circumstances of Geoff Gray’s death, held in March 2002, returned an “open” verdict, with the coroner rejecting a suicide verdict.

In June 2002 it emerged that two further deaths had occurred in 1995 at Deepcut, that of Cheryl James, 18 years old, who had been found with a single bullet wound to the head, and for whom an inquest had recorded an “open” verdict; and that of 20-year-old Sean Benton who had been found dead with five gunshot wounds, for whom an inquest had recorded a verdict of suicide.

Over recent years, public concern has been mounting about deaths in disputed circumstances of army personnel, including under-18s, in non-combat situations in and around army barracks in the UK and at UK bases overseas. There have been allegations that some of these deaths may have involved unlawful killings, either intentional or as a result of negligence, through, for example, the misuse of lethal weapons; deaths during strenuous training exercises; and self-inflicted deaths, at times following bullying and ill-treatment, including sexual harassment, by other soldiers and superior officers.

In addition, questions have been raised about the adequacy and effectiveness of the authorities’ response to these fatalities and the serious allegations that have arisen about them. Amnesty International has received reports that, in a number of cases, the UK authorities have failed to take adequate measures to ensure prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and effective investigations into these deaths, and to address the disputed circumstances in which they have been said to have taken place.

In November 2004 the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about “reports of incidents of bullying followed by self-harm and suicide in the armed forces, and the need for full public inquiry into these incidents and adequate preventive measures”. In December 2004, the Ministry of Defence appointed, Nicholas Blake QC, a senior barrister, to urgently review the circumstances surrounding the above-mentioned four deaths at Deepcut Barracks and to report.

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UPDATE:

 

An MP has reportedly renewed calls for a public inquiry into the death of four Army recruits at Deepcut barracks.

The move comes following new claims that the results of an independent review this week will contain new allegations of bullying and abuse at the base.

The report by Nicholas Blake QC into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the four soldiers at the barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002, will be published on Wednesday.

According to the Mail on Sunday newspaper the investigation will single out 14 current and ex-soldiers for criticism over the deaths.

The report will allege that one unnamed officer verbally abused Pte Benton and made sexual advances towards a female cadet, said the MoS.

Pete Wishart, who represents the constituency of Collinson's parents, Jim and Yvonne, said the Deepcut controversy would always remain until a full public inquiry was held.

The Perth and North Perthshire MP added: "Nicholas Blake's report is expected to highlight further details of the culture of bullying that existed at Deepcut and very disturbing evidence of sexual abuse.

"Again we will hear of a failure in the duty of care and inadequate supervision of young recruits."

The media spotlight turned on Deepcut after Pte James Collinson, 17, from Perth, Scotland, was found dead with a single gunshot wound to his head at the camp where he had been on guard duty on the night of March 23 2002.

It later emerged Ptes Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, North Wales, and Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, Co Durham, had died in similar circumstances over the previous seven years.

A £1 million investigation by Surrey Police found no evidence that anyone else was involved.

An inquest jury earlier this month returned an open verdict into Pte Collinson's death but coroner Michael Burgess called for a public inquiry into the death of all four recruits.

A MoD spokeswoman said today: "Blake is an independent review commissioned by the Minister for Armed Forces.

"We await the findings of the review on Wednesday, and it would be inappropriate to pre-empt or speculate on any of the findings before then."


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14 June 2006
SLUR ON DEEPCUT VICTIMS ANGERS FAMILIES

TORY Liam Fox has slated the records of the young soldiers who died at notorious Deepcut barracks.

He said three had histories of self-harm - two of them before they joined the Army - and the fourth was about to be booted out of the service.

Fox did not identify the soldiers involved but his comments have appalled the families of the Deepcut victims, including James Collinson, 17, from Perth.

The young soldier's mum Yvonne yesterday demanded an apology from Fox.

After his claims, the shadow defence secretary added: "These vulnerable individuals were not only given loaded guns but put on solitary guard duty that was remote in its location."

His comments provoked official parliamentary complaints from MPs present representing the families.

 

Mrs Collinson said last night: "The man is talking a lot of rubbish, quite clearly. I think he should apologise for the upset he caused.

"It is inexcusable. He should have been better informed before he said all that rubbish."

No history of James harming himself was found by the inquest into his death, which recorded an open verdict, she added.


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The Times July 12, 2006

 

Deepcut decision

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has rejected a claim that police investigating the death of a soldier at Deepcut decided in advance that it was a suicide. Private Geoff Gray, 17, died of gunshot wounds at the army training barracks in Surrey in September 2001. An inquest recorded an open verdict.

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Deepcut files kept secret to save police...

 

Private Gray

Found dead: Private Geoff Gray...

A review of the investigation into deaths at Deepcut Army barracks is being kept secret to avoid "distress" to the police force involved.

A national newspaper made a series of requests under Freedom of Information laws for the report into Surrey Police's handling of the case to be released.

However, these have been turned down because the findings would damage the force's reputation and erode public confidence in the police and the Army.

Relatives of the four young soldiers who died at Deepcut camp are furious, claiming these are precisely the reasons the findings should be made public.

Four young squaddies were found dead from gunshot wounds at Deepcut in mysterious circumstances between 1995 and 2002.

Relatives believe Army and civilian police investigating the deaths were too quick to assume all four were cases of suicide, despite evidence uncovered by independent forensic experts pointing to foul play.

Private Sean Benton, 20, and Private Cheryl James, 18, were found dead at Deepcut five months apart in 1995, while Private Geoff Gray, 17, died in 2001 and Private James Collinson, also 17, was found dead the following year.

All died from gunshot wounds from assault rifles, mostly while guarding the perimeter. Relatives believe they may have been murdered.

Criticism of the original police inquiry snowballed into a scandal and a second investigation uncovered a culture of physical and psychological bullying of recruits at Deepcut.

Devon and Cornwall Police were drafted in to review Surrey's handling of the case, but their 150-page report has been kept secret, with only a three-page summary published.

That described Surrey's investigation as poorly led and said the "mindset" of detectives may have led them to narrow the inquiries too soon, concentrating on suicide.

Without revealing details it described "confusion over roles and responsibilities" and a "lack of clarity" in leadership from senior officers and complained Surrey Police prevented

Devon and Cornwall's officers from considering key documents.

In refusing to release the full report Devon and Cornwall Police claimed all the relevant material was held in "15 large files" which would take too long to read and edit, therefore exceeding the £600 cost limit for handling Freedom of Information requests.

Officials added that releasing the findings was "likely to harm the reputation of Surrey Police" as well as having "a negative impact on the public confidence in Surrey Police", and raising "wider concerns about Army training establishments".

They also claimed publishing the report would "prejudice the effective conduct of pubic affairs", as police might be discouraged from cooperating freely with future "learning reviews" carried out by other forces.

Finally, it is claimed releasing the report would cause "distress and harm" to Surrey officers, and "endanger the physical or mental health" of named individuals.

Geoff Gray, whose son Geoff was one of the Deepcut four, said he was appalled at the decision.

He added: "It is more than frustrating for us as parents, knowing that the report into my son's death was so flawed that they won't release this report."

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who has campaigned for a public inquiry, said: "It makes a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act if, when push comes to shove, the old culture of secrecy can still be evoked to form a defensive ring round information which should already be in the public domain."


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Reply with quote  #21 

There's a suprise  wonder if they've found the cat-badge yet either

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Agreed ma and also agree with the parents too.......


[Finally, it is claimed releasing the report would cause "distress and harm" to Surrey officers, and "endanger the physical or mental health" of named individuals.

Geoff Gray, whose son Geoff was one of the Deepcut four, said he was appalled at the decision.

He added: "It is more than frustrating for us as parents, knowing that the report into my son's death was so flawed that they won't release this report." ]


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"endanger the physical or mental health" of named individuals
 
 
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Four mysterious deaths but no smoking gun

 

 

Pte James, of Llangollen, Gwent, was found dead on Nov 27 1995 with a single bullet wound to the head at the barracks - the headquarters of the Royal Logistical Corps. An Army inquiry concluded she had committed suicide. Surrey Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the death but a coroner recorded an open verdict. Her parents Doreen and Des believe their daughter suffered sexual harassment and violence at Deepcut. One of Cheryl's friends said the 18-year-old recruit had been forced to have sex with a corporal at the barracks.

  •  

    Pte Sean Benton

    Pte Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, was found dead at the Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, on June 9, 1995. He had five bullet wounds to his chest. Despite ballistics tests suggesting that only one was fired from close range and the others from a distance, the Army said he had committed suicide. Seven years after his death a former colleague claimed Pte Benton had been the victim of vicious verbal attack by instructors at the camp.

    Pte Geoff Gray

     

    Pte Gray, 17, from Hackney, east London, was found on September 17, 2001, with two gunshot wounds to his head while on guard duty. Five shots had been fired and the other three bullets have not been found.

    Although the Army believes he took his own life, a coroner recorded an open verdict after hearing from witnesses that during a search after the shots were fired a figure was seen running away.

    Pte James Collinson

     

    Pte Collinson, 17, from Perth, was found dead on March 23, 2002, with a single gunshot wound through his chin while on guard duty at the barracks. The Army said he killed himself but his parents do not accept this, insisting he had been a happy, cheerful young man and was making plans for his future. In March 2006 an inquest jury returned an open verdict into the soldier's death. The Collinsons insist their son was murdered and there has been a cover-up.


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    hammer6

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    Parents inspired by Deepcut play...

     

    Clockwise from top left - Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray, Cheryl James
    The four soldiers' deaths happened between 1995 and 2002...

    The parents of soldiers who died at Deepcut army barracks said an Edinburgh festival show on the issue has renewed their fight for a public inquiry.

    Yvonne and Jim Collinson's son, Pte James Collinson, 17, from Perth, was found with a single gunshot wound to his head in March 2002.

    Four deaths at the base are the subject of the new Fringe play.

    The parents of another soldier who died, Cheryl James from north Wales, also saw the production on Wednesday.

    Mrs Collinson, who saw the show, Deep Cut, for the first time, told the BBC Scotland news website the experience was overwhelming and emotional.

    "I hope this will put the public eye and public pressure back on the case for a public inquiry," she said.

    The play was portrayed so well that it really got us angry again
    Yvonne Collinson...
    "I think, watching the performance, anyone who left and didn't believe we should have a public inquiry would have been very few and far between.

    She went on: "I think the play was portrayed so well that it really got us angry again, it really gave me the wind under my wings to get going again because, as was also portrayed in the play, you do get tired, you do think, 'where else have we got to turn'.

    "I think it's not over until it's over and it's not over yet."

    Mr Collinson added: "It's something we need, as it brings it back to the forefront again, that the families are still here, that they are still trying to fight for justice."

    Allegations of bullying and abuse at Deepcut, in Surrey, were made after the soldiers' deaths, which occurred between 1995 and 2002.

    The play, by Cardiff-based theatre company Sherman Cymru, looked at the aftermath of the deaths and, in particular, the effect on the parents of another soldier who died, Pte Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, north Wales.

    'Intense' story

    Writer Philip Ralph spent two years writing the play, and held face-to-face interviews with family members and scoured public documents and media reports.

    Des James, Cheryl's father, made a moving speech near the end of the show, which had many audience members crying.

    He added: "If the show only moves us a millimetre towards a public inquiry then it is a success. There isn't any other goal.

    "It is like the condensation of 13 years of your life revealed to you in one-and-a-half-hours and, even though you know the story, it's the intensity of that, you even then start thinking, 'this is bad' and then you remember it's about you. It's weird."

    L to R: actors Ciaran McIntyre and Rhian Morgan playing Des and Doreen James
    The parents of Pte Cheryl James featured in the play...

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

    In September 2001, 17-year-old Pte Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Co Durham, was discovered with two gunshot wounds to his head.

    Six months later, Pte Collinson was found with a gunshot wound upwards through his chin.

    Inquests into the deaths recorded a verdict of suicide in Pte Benton's case and open verdicts for the other three.

    An independent review of the deaths, conducted by Nicholas Blake QC, concluded in March 2006 that the deaths were probably self-inflicted.

    However, Mr Blake criticised army training, citing "harassment, discrimination and oppressive behaviour".

    The MoD announced the closure of Deepcut on 8 January as part of a review to overhaul training facilities across the UK.

    Deep Cut is being staged at the Traverse until August 24, before heading to Mold in north Wales, and Cardiff.


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    hammer6

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    Reply with quote  #27 

    Parents of dead soldier still believe foul play was involved

    James Collinson from Perth was found dead at the Deepcut ... at his Surrey Army barracks are convinced their son died as a result of foul play


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