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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

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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