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Nicholas Moss KC, Emma Price and Matthew Waszak represented the Ministry of Defence in the fresh inquest into the death of Sean Benton at Deepcut Barracks on 9 June 1995.
The nominated judge-coroner HH Peter Rook KC gave his findings of fact and conclusions on 18 July 2018, evidence having been heard from January to June 2018. The Coroner concluded that Sean’s death was a suicide. He found that Sean fired all the shots himself; no third party was involved.
Sean was profoundly affected by the decision made the day before his death that the army would be seeking his discharge. Sean had an undiagnosed evolving Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which meant that he would have had great difficulty in coping with significant disappointments and stressful life events.
The Coroner found one probable and two possible causative failures in relation to the suicide:
(1) Had adequate instructions been given to the trainees on guard duty the night before Sean’s death, the trick that he used to obtain a weapon and ammunition from a fellow trainee was unlikely to have succeeded and he would not have obtained the weapon and shot himself when he did.
(2) There was a failure by the army properly to provide welfare supervision and support to Sean. Had he been offered and accepted such support, it was possible that Sean would not have taken the fatal action that he did. However, the evidence did not establish that this would probably have been the case.
(3) Sean, who often fell below expectations regarding his kit, turnout and attitude, would frequently be picked up and sanctioned by NCOs. In addition, he was the subject of abuse and physical violence by one NCO on a number of occasions, and was attacked on at least one occasion by his fellow trainees. The Coroner found that it was likely that these events eroded Sean’s resilience particularly in light of his emerging personality disorder. However, while it was possible that these events contributed to Sean’s decision to take his own life, it could not be established that they probably did so.
The Record of Inquest referred to a number of further non-causative shortcomings, which had been admitted by the army, concerning the policies, systems and procedures at Deepcut.
The Coroner made no Regulation 28 report (Preventing Future Deaths), being satisfied that the army has taken action (and in some areas will be taking further action) in relation to the identified areas of concern.