Belfast Telegraph

MoD is urged to keep log of contact with unwell troops

By Michael McHugh

Relatives of two soldiers who took their own lives here have urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to keep records of contact with vulnerable troops.

Lance Corporal James Ross (30), from Leeds, died in December 2012 and Rifleman Darren Mitchell (20), from London, two months later at Ballykinler Barracks in Co Down.

Eight other service personnel self-harmed at the army base, five of whom are still serving.

A coroner is to write notifying them that material containing their personal details may be disclosed.

Family barrister Karen Quinlivan QC told the coroner: "If individuals went to the MoD for support and assistance, given the history and background of the individuals concerned, you would have an expectation that records would be kept."

The dead men had fought in Afghanistan and their families raised post-traumatic stress disorder concerns following the deaths of the soldiers, who served in Second Battalion the Rifles.

A Belfast preliminary inquest into their deaths was held yesterday.

Ms Quinlivan told the coroner: "The MoD is a public body with duties to your investigation, which is ongoing.

"This is an Article 2 investigation (surrounding the state's responsibility to protect life).

"The MoD should therefore on your direction keep appropriate records."

Philip Aldworth QC, for the ministry, said directing the organisation to record all contacts with affected soldiers was unworkable, counterproductive and unnecessary.

He added: "It is very likely that some of the recipients of the letter will seek advice or support from other military personnel. They may well do so on an informal basis.

"How is that going to be appropriately recorded?"

Coroner Joe McCrisken said he would not micro-manage the process and queried whether he had the power to direct the MoD to keep records.

But he added: "It is desirable that records are kept by the MoD."

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