Inquest into the death of Pte Cheryl James (Deepcut Barracks)
7th June 2016
Nicholas Moss and Emma Price (assisted by Matthew Waszak) represented the Ministry of Defence and two individual servicemen in the further inquest into the death of Cheryl James. Ms James was the second of four trainees to die at Deepcut in the period 1995-2002. The first inquest was quashed on grounds of insufficiency of inquiry.
The second inquest heard evidence from over 100 witnesses over 30 sitting days. Recording a narrative conclusion, nominated Coroner HHJ Brian Barker QC found that Ms James “…died as a result of suicide. The circumstances were that: Ms James had been posted as a lone female armed guard contrary to army policy; the risk of self-harm to trainees had not been adequately recognised nor had adequate steps been taken to reduce that risk”. MOD admitted and apologised for a number of significant shortcomings in the regime at Deepcut. Examining these shortcomings, the Coroner declined to find that any of them, save those relating to lone guard duty, had caused or contributed to the death.
The Coroner rejected the notion that Ms James may have been killed by a third party, describing aspects of the pathology evidence said to support such a finding as unconvincing. He found that the evidence did not reveal that Ms James was subject to any unwanted sexual harassment, abuse or bullying at Deepcut. He described as “wholly without foundation” the allegation made by one soldier that Ms James had been raped by a fellow trainee. The Coroner accepted there had been wholesale changes in Army training policies and practice since 1995. Recognising that the Army still had some way to go in tackling attitudes and culture, and the issue of sexualized behaviour, the Coroner was satisfied that the Army was now giving significant priority to these issues and did not make a Preventing Further Deaths report.