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Sex abuse claims hang over new Deepcut inquest

The father of a young soldier found shot at a controversial army barracks has said he is convinced that she was abused before her death.

A new inquest was set to open today into Private Cheryl James, 18, who was discovered with a fatal gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995.

Des James, her father, has spoken out after a judge said that he would not hear claims of sexual abuse as part of the proceedings.

Mr James said told ITV News Correspondent Juliette Bremner that he believed there had been "bullying at an extraordinary scale" at the barracks.

"I do honestly believe that a culture was created at Deepcut that allowed these people to exist and allowed them to intimidate children, effectively," he said.

Deepcut inquest will not consider 'sex abuse culture' claims

A second inquest into the death of a young soldier at a Deepcut army barracks in 1995 will not consider whether it had "a culture of sexual abuse", a coroner has said.

The Deepcut Barracks in Surrey. Credit: PA

Brian Barker QC said that evidence Pte James may have been sexually abused at the time of her death fell within the scope of the inquest.

But he added that 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".

Des James, father of Private Cheryl James, arrives at Woking Coroner's Court Credit: PA

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

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

The ruling would remain under review "as the evidence develops" during the seven-week inquest, he added.

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'Full, frank and fearless' Deepcut investigation promised

By ITV News correspondent Juliet Bremner

Private Cheryl James was one of four teenage recruits to die at Deepcut over a seven-year period. Credit: Family handout

The second inquest into the death of teenage recruit Cheryl James opened today with a promise that it would be a "full, frank and fearless" investigation.

The 18-year-old's parents won a legal battle to hold a new inquest and present additional evidence into the possible reasons why she died at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in November 1995.

But at the opening of the inquest, Judge Brian Barker sitting as coroner, said that he could not allow a wider inquiry in the culture at the base. He pointed out that it was his role to consider "how, not why " Pte James had died.

He promised there would be "a full, frank and fearless inquiry into the death of Cheryl James" but this would not look at allegations of sexual abuse and bullying that may have occurred before the night of her death.

The family had argued at pre-trial hearings that this could have contributed to Cheryl's state of mind and had hoped to introduce witnesses to testify about earlier experiences of abuse at Deepcut.

Father: 'We may never know what happened at Deepcut'

The father of Private Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks, hopes his daughters death will be fully investigated if a new inquest takes place.

Des James says they may never know what happened to his daughter but her death must be investigated further.

Pte James was found dead after an apparent suicide in 1995. She was one of four soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

The solicitor acting on behalf of the family, Emma Norton, says there is no guarantee that another inquest will take place.

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Profile of Deepcut four

Pte James Collinson and Pte Cheryl James Credit: Press Association Images

Private James Collinson

Aged 17, from Perth, Scotland. Pte Collinson was found with a single gunshot wound through his chin in March 2002.

Private Cheryl James

Age 18, from Llangollen, north Wales. Pte James was found dead with a bullet through her forehead, in November 1995.

Pte Sean Benton and Pte Geoff Gray Credit: Press Association Images

Private Sean Benton

Aged 20, from Hastings in East Sussex. Pte Benton was found dead with five gunshot wounds while on guard in June 1995.

Private Geoff Gray

Aged 17, from Seaham in County Durham. Pte Gray was found dead with two gunshot wounds to his head while on guard duty in September 2001.

Parents 'delighted' at Deepcut inquest ruling

The family of Cheryl James say they are relieved at the Attorney General's decision to allow them permission to apply for a fresh inquest into the death of their daughter.

Pte James was one of four soldiers who died at Deepcut barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002.

We're relieved and delighted by the Attorney General's decision.

It's truly an emotional day - it's been a long and painful process, with so many hurdles, but we never considered giving up.

Cheryl had her whole life in front of her; when our young people lose their lives serving their country, not only do they deserve a full and independent investigation into their deaths, it must be their absolute right.

We may now finally achieve a meaningful inquiry into her death and we hope it brings about real change for future recruits.

– Des and Doreen James, parents of Pte James

Grieve: New Deepcut inquest 'in the interests of justice'

Private James' parents, backed by Human Rights campaign group Liberty, called for a fresh inquest into her death, lodging an application with the Attorney General for consent to apply to the High Court for one.

Today a spokesman for Dominic Grieve said he had granted his consent.

The spokesman said:

The application was made to the Attorney General on the basis that the original inquest made insufficient enquiry into the circumstances of her death and because new evidence is now available that was not put before the inquest in December 1995.

The Attorney General granted his consent because he concluded that it was in the interests of justice for the application for a new inquest to go forward and to be heard by the High Court.

– Attorney General spokesman
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