Deepcut soldier inquest won't consider 'culture of sex abuse' claims

Father of Pte James: MoD Dismissed Deepcut Culture Problem

The inquest into the death of a young soldier at a controversial army barracks more than 20 years ago will not consider whether it had "a 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 "whether there was a culture of sexual abuse at Deepcut Barracks, including the sexually inappropriate treatment of female recruits within the chain of command".

"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.