Des and Doreen James, the parents of Private Cheryl James, who was found dead at Deepcut Barracks in 1995, will receive a Liberty Human Rights Award after their 20-year-long fight for the truth. The said the loss of their daughter and others who died at the barracks “must not be in vain” and “this award comes almost 21 years after Cheryl’s premature death. It is a sad irony that instead of taking pride in this achievement we anxiously look on as our Government attempts to dilute the very legislation which allowed it to happen – the very legislation which might assist future generations of our armed forces to challenge the State should similar injustice occur again.”
Her second inquest and the second inquest into the death of Sean Benton which was announced this month, could not have been achieved without the Human Rights Act.
Pte James was 18 and undergoing initial training at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey when she was found dead from a bullet wound in 1995. She was one of four young recruits, along with Sean Benton, Geoff Gray and James Collinson, to die at the camp between 1995 and 2002.Police immediately handed the matter over to the Army and Pte James’ death was never investigated independently.
The original inquest recorded an open verdict. It was fiercely criticised as key witnesses were uncalled, medical records were left uninspected and no ballistics or forensics tests were conducted.
The couple spent two decades seeking answers from the authorities about what happened to their daughter. Their attempts to gain more information were repeatedly blocked before a second inquest was held. The second inquest found that Pte James died from an intentionally “self-inflicted shot” from her rifle.
Mr James said, “The loss of Sean, Cheryl, Geoff and James must not be in vain. We will proudly accept this award to raise their voice. There has to be an inquiry into the culture that was allowed to creep into the Deepcut camp between 1994 and 2002 – and our call for that inquiry must not be ignored again.”
The head of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter reiterated the James’ call for an inquiry into Deepcut and apologised “unreservedly” after the inquest also criticised the care offered to recruits at Deepcut Barracks.
Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said: “Des and Doreen James are remarkable people. For more than 20 years they fought to find out what happened to their daughter with incredible bravery and integrity.”
The couple will receive their award on Wednesday at London’s Royal Court Theatre.