High Court orders new inquest into Deepcut soldier death

The High Court has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of soldier Pte Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks after a challenge by her family.

Deepcut inquest was 'extremely limited and had flaws'

The first inquest into the death of soldier Private Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks in 1995 was "extremely limited and had flaws," Judge Peter Thornton QC said.

Deepcut barracks in Surrey
Deepcut barracks in Surrey Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA Wire

Pte James was undergoing initial training at Deepcut when she was found dead with a bullet wound between her right eye and the bridge of her nose.

The first inquest was completed less than a month after she died. An early assumption had been that she had taken her own life.

"Her rifle was not examined forensically. No fingerprints were taken from it. No gunshot residue tests were made," Judge Thornton said.

Only a limited number of witness statements were taken. Very few witnesses were called to give evidence, and it was not surprising that the scope of the inquest was "circumscribed", said the judge.

The then Surrey coroner concluded with an open verdict after saying he was not able to find that suicide was proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Read: High Court orders new inquest into Deepcut soldier death

Deepcut soldier's family 'delighted' about fresh inquest

The parents of the soldier who was found dead from a single gunshot wound at Deepcut barracks in November 1995 said they were "delighted" to have a fresh inquest into her death.

But Mr and Mrs James said "a meaningful inquiry into Cheryl's death is almost 20 years late."

When young people die in violent circumstances, a rigorous and transparent investigation should be automatic. Something went dreadfully wrong at Deepcut yet until now no-one has bothered to look at how and why our daughter died. We can only hope that Cheryl's legacy helps change the current ineffective and discredited military justice system.

– Parents of Pte Cheryl James

Read: High Court orders new inquest into Deepcut soldier death

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Deepcut: Fresh inquest ordered into death of soldier

The High Court has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of soldier Private Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks after a challenge by her family.

Mr Justice Mitting and Judge Peter Thornton QC both agreed that there was "an insufficiency of inquiry" at the 1995 inquest and quashed its open verdict.

Pte James, 18, was found dead from a single gunshot wound in November 1995.

Undated handout photo of Private Cheryl James
Undated handout photo of Private Cheryl James Credit: PA Wire

Judge Thornton said "the discovery of new facts or evidence" made "a fresh investigation including a fresh inquest necessary or desirable in the interests of justice".

Pte James was one of four soldiers who died at the Surrey barracks between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse. Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds.

Read: High Court orders new inquest into Deepcut soldier death