Cheryl James inquest 'will not consider alleged culture of sex abuse at Deepcut'


The inquest into the death of a young soldier at a controversial army barracks more than 20 years ago will not consider whether there was a "wider culture of sexual abuse", a coroner has said.

Brian Barker QC made the ruling at the start of the inquest into the death of Private Cheryl James, 18, who was discovered with a fatal gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995.

She was one of four recruits to die there over a seven-year period amid allegations of bullying and abuse.

Mr Barker told Woking Coroner's Court in Surrey that evidence Pte James may have been sexually abused at the time of her death fell within the scope of the inquest.

But it was not within the inquest's scope to consider "a wider culture of sexual abuse at Deepcut Barracks, including the sexually inappropriate treatment of female recruits within the chain of command," he said.

"This is not a public inquiry into the culture at Deepcut in mid-1990s," Mr Barker told the inquest.

"This inquest should be a full, frank and fearless investigation into Cheryl's death, but it does not mean the scope is unlimited.

"Any allegation of previous sexual harassment or abuse will fall out of scope of the inquest and cannot be pursued by questioning."

Mr Barker said his ruling would remain under review "as the evidence develops" during the seven-week inquest.

Speaking ahead of the start of the inquest, Des James said he hoped for "justice" for his daughter and the other young soldiers who died at Deepcut.

He told the Press Association: "We know the culture at the camp was out of control. There was a drug and alcohol culture.

"The bottom line is a culture was created at the camp which contributed to the death of four people.

"The Deepcut situation is the tip of the iceberg. We have to get to the bottom of what happened. I want justice for all four of them."

New evidence emerged last month which suggested Pte James may have been sexually exploited by senior ranks shortly before her death.

At least 10 witnesses have now come forward with allegations of a culture of sexual exploitation at Deepcut, according to human rights organisation Liberty, which is representing the family.

Pte James, from Llangollen in North Wales, was undergoing initial training when she was found dead with a bullet wound between her right eye and the bridge of her nose in November 1995.

Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002.

In 2014, High Court judges ordered a fresh inquest into Pte James's death after they quashed an open verdict recorded in December 1995. Her body was exhumed in August and a post-mortem examination was carried out by two experts.

In total, more than 100 witnesses are expected to give evidence during the new inquest. The family had requested the scope of the hearing be widened to take account of new evidence which they believe sheds fresh light on Pte James's state of mind.

The inquest will consider whether a third party was involved in her death and what happened on the evening before she died.

It will also address whether there were "shortcomings" with barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young females, drugs, alcohol and accommodation.